The sweet scents of women’s cosmetics and the stench of politics are an unlikely blend.
Yet few corporate boards are more politically active than that of Estee Lauder.
Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a director of the company since 2000, has been stealing most of the thunder in recent days because of her ongoing support of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Lady Rothschild, a major fundraiser for the Clinton campaign, has gone so far as to declare Barack Obama an elist.
However, she’s not the only bundler on the Estee Lauder board. Director Sally Susman, former Commerce deputy assistant secretary, also raised money for Clinton. Mellody L. Hobson, president of Chicago-based Ariel Capital Management, is a fundraiser for Obama.
Other board members bring important Washington connections. Richard D. Parsons is former deputy counsel to the vice president, while Charlene Barshefsky is former U.S. trade representative.
Ronald S. Lauder
Then there is the political activism of the Lauders themselves.
Ronald Lauder, son of the company founder, heads the World Jewish Congress. He is former ambassador to Austria and an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of New York. In the 1980s, he served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO Affairs.
The woman who launched the dynasty bearing her name was born Josephine Esther Mentzer, the daughter of Eastern European immigrants who ran a hardware store in Queens. She started by selling face cream to beauty shops. As the business grew, so did her circle of influential friends, including Princess Grace of Monaco and the Duchess of Windsor. She turned down President Nixon’s offer to make her ambassador to Luxembourg.
At the time of her death, at age 97 in 2004, the company was worth $10 billion.
Her son Leonard is now chairman of the publicly traded firm. Her grandson, William, is CEO. Ronald chairs the company’s Clinique Laboratories.