Ron Lauder: Philanthropist, Businessman, and Jewish Leader
Ron Lauder's life and career have been marked by his diverse interests and accomplishments, spanning the worlds of business, politics, art, philanthropy, and Jewish leadership. As a scion of the Estée Lauder Companies, he initially made his mark in the cosmetics industry before branching out into diplomacy and politics, serving as a U.S. Ambassador and being actively involved in Jewish causes and organizations.
His involvement in media and art has also left a lasting cultural impact. Throughout his life, he has been a complex and influential figure on both the national and international stages.
Ronald (Ron) Steven Lauder, born on February 26, 1944, in New York, is a prominent figure known for his multifaceted career as a businessman, politician, art collector, and renowned philanthropist. Lauder is associated with several media companies worldwide and holds a significant position in the international Jewish community as the President of the World Jewish Congress.
His mother, Estée Lauder, founded the cosmetics conglomerate "Estée Lauder," and Ron Lauder served as a director for both the parent company and its subsidiaries.
According to Forbes magazine, as of 2015, Ron Lauder was among the world's wealthiest individuals, ranking at 435th place globally, with an estimated net worth of approximately $3.9 billion.
Early Life and Education
Ron Lauder was born as the second son to Joseph and Estée Lauder. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and later earned his bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His academic pursuits also took him to the University of Paris and the University of Brussels, where he received a certificate in international business studies. In 1964, he joined his family's business, Estée Lauder Companies, as the head of its international division.
In 1984, Ron Lauder transitioned from the business world to politics, where he was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO policy. Two years later, President Ronald Reagan appointed him as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria, a position he held until 1987.
In September 1989, Lauder ran for the Republican nomination for Mayor of New York City against Rudy Giuliani. Although he lost the race, he continued to run as the Conservative Party candidate and secured less than 0.5% of the votes, while Giuliani ultimately lost to David Dinkins, the Democratic Party candidate. During this campaign, Lauder's views were generally right-leaning, particularly in relation to Israel, aligning with Likud's policies.
In 1993 and again in 1996, Ron Lauder played a prominent role in supporting term limits for New York City Council members, both of which were successful referendums.
Lauder was also involved in environmental and public affairs throughout his life.
In 2003, Lauder founded the Lauder Business School in Vienna, Austria, with the goal of educating professionals and leaders in the fields of business and economics, with a focus on international marketing and management.
In February 2013, he was awarded the French Legion of Honour by President François Hollande, recognizing his contributions.
Involvement in Channel 10
Ron Lauder was engaged in several significant media deals in Israel, including the acquisition of a stake in Channel 10. In September 2011, allegations surfaced that Lauder exerted heavy pressure on Channel 10 executives to broadcast a personal apology to businessman Sheldon Adelson following a profile piece that aired on the channel in January 2011.
The apology stated, "Following the broadcast of the report, we examined the allegations. Our investigation found that these allegations were entirely false. We deeply regret not having verified these allegations before broadcasting them."
This apology led to the resignations of Channel 10's CEO Rani Rahav, program editor Ruth Yuval, and presenter Guy Zohar (who continued in other roles at Channel 10). Due to the controversy and criticism directed at Lauder by Channel 10's staff, he decided to reconsider the channel's funding after October 2011.
In November 2011, the Second Authority for Television and Radio ruled that Channel 10's apology to Sheldon Adelson was justified, stating that there was no evidence of interference by the majority shareholders of Channel 10 in the content of the news programs or the wording of the apology.
In October 2012, Lauder's company, JCS, sold its share in the website "Nana10" to the media company JCS for approximately 10 million NIS. JCS, owned by Lauder, now holds 50% of the site, while the other half is owned by Channel 10, of which Lauder also holds a portion of the shares.
Judaism and Israel
In 1987, Ron Lauder established the "Lauder Foundation for Jewish Communities and Jewish Education in Eastern Europe." Today, the foundation operates 62 programs in 15 countries, including schools and kindergartens.
He has supported and served as a trustee for various philanthropic organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, worldwide. Lauder contributed to the establishment of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya's School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy in Israel.
Ron Lauder was the President of the World Jewish Congress and served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
In June 2007, Lauder was elected as the President of the World Jewish Congress, defeating his competitors, Eitan Wertheimer from Israel and Mendel Kaplan from South Africa, by a significant margin.
During his tenure as President of the World Jewish Congress, Lauder expressed his opinions on various controversial issues. He strongly opposed energy deals between different European energy companies and Iran, called for more serious UN sanctions against Iran due to its threats against Israel and its nuclear program, and objected to the canonization of Pope Pius XII until the release of Vatican archives revealing his actions during the Holocaust. He also supported Benjamin Netanyahu in his confrontations with Barack Obama and more.
In the past, Lauder was considered a personal friend of Benjamin Netanyahu. In 1998, during Netanyahu's first term as Prime Minister of Israel, reports suggested that Lauder was sent on Netanyahu's behalf to negotiate a peace agreement with Syria, which included an agreement on the Golan Heights.
Lauder's mediation between Israel and Syria continued even after Ehud Barak replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's Prime Minister until the Shepherdstown talks held between January 3 and 10, 2000, where these efforts did not bear fruit. However, it appears that relations between Lauder and Netanyahu have cooled since then.
In May 2017, Ron Lauder hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his home before Abbas's meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. The Prime Minister's Office expressed dissatisfaction with this move.
In March 2018, an op-ed published in The New York Times by Ron Lauder warned that "Israel is at risk of turning into a semi-theocracy, with Israel's transformation from a modern and liberal democracy into a quasi-theocracy" and cautioned against the death of the two-state solution, Israel's capitulation to extreme religious elements, and the growing alienation of the Jewish diaspora.
According to Lauder, "If current trends continue, Israel will face a fateful choice: Grant the Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state, or infringe on their rights and cease being a democracy. To avoid these outcomes, the only path forward is a two-state solution."
Ron Lauder is the primary benefactor of the Neue Galerie New York, an art gallery in New York City. He also possesses various private art collections, with one of his most notable collections featuring medieval and Renaissance weaponry, considered the largest private collection of its kind globally. Lauder played a pivotal role in returning art treasures that were stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners.
In June 2006, Lauder purchased Gustav Klimt's portrait "Adele Bloch-Bauer I" for $135 million, making it one of the most expensive paintings ever sold. He later donated the painting to the Neue Galerie in New York City.
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