Ronald Steven Lauder (born February 26, 1944) is an American businessman, art collector, philanthropist, and political activist. He is an heir to the Estée Lauder Companies, and the president of the World Jewish Congress.
Life and career
Lauder was born in New York City, the son of Estée Lauder and Joseph Lauder, founders of Estée Lauder Companies. He is the younger brother of Leonard Lauder, chairman of the board of the Estée Lauder Companies. The boys were raised Jewish.
He attended the Bronx High School of Science and holds a bachelor’s degree in International Business from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He studied at the University of Paris, and received a Certificate in International Business from the University of Brussels.
He is married to Jo Carole (Knopf) Lauder. They have two children, Aerin and Jane.
Lauder started to work for the Estée Lauder Company in 1964. In 1984, he became a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO policy at The Pentagon.
In 1986, Ronald Reagan named him as the United States Ambassador to Austria, a position he held until 1987. As ambassador, he fired diplomatic officer Felix Bloch, who later became known in connection with the Robert Hanssen espionage case.
As a Republican, he made a bid to become the mayor of New York City in 1989, losing to Rudy Giuliani in the Republican primary. Michael Massing, writing of this nomination race, notes that politically Lauder ‘seemed out of step with most American Jews; … he ran to the right of Rudolph Giuliani. And, on Israeli issues, he was a vocal supporter of the Likud party, with long-standing ties to Benjamin Netanyahu.”
In 1998, Lauder was asked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to begin Track II negotiations with Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad; these negotiations continued after the election of Ehud Barak to the post. Lauder communicated a new-found willingness on Asad’s part to make compromises with the Israelis in an overall land for peace deal, and his draft “Treaty of Peace Between Israel and Syria” formed an important part of the (ultimately fruitless) Israeli-Syrian negotiations that occurred in January 2000 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Lauder manages investments in real estate and media, including Central European Media Enterprises and Israeli TV. In 2010, Lauder founded RWL Water, LLC.
His daughter Jane is married to Kevin Warsh, a former member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.