Billionaires Ronald and Leonard Lauder Donate $200M to Alzheimer’s Research

The brothers have a combined net worth of over $25 billion.

Two elderly white men dressed in suits speak at podium on stage
Ronald Lauder, left, and his brother Leonard, right, at an ADDF symposium in 2017. Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Ronald and Leonard Lauder, the sons of Estee Lauder and heirs of her eponymous beauty company, are donating $200 million to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

The gift is the largest-ever donation for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), which claims to be “the only charity solely focused on finding drugs for Alzheimer’s.”

The ADDF was founded in 1998 by the Lauder brothers as their mother, who died in 2004, battled Alzheimer’s. “With this extraordinary gift, the Lauders will continue what they began 25 years ago, when they founded the ADDF in honor of their mother, Mrs. Estee Lauder,” said Mark Roithmayr, CEO of the ADDF, in a statement.

The organization follows a venture philanthropy model, funding high-risk and high-reward programs and funneling returns into drug development research. The model has been supported by philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, said the ADDF.

The $200 million gift will help the ADDF focus on introducing new drugs to fight Alzheimer’s based on the biology of aging, according to the organization. “As this research continues to progress, we will have prevention programs to slow this disease before it begins, diagnostic tools to tell us what each person’s disease looks like, and effective treatments to eradicate it for future generations,” said Ronald Lauder in a statement.

Ronald Lauder, 79, has a net worth of $4.6 billion, according to Forbes. He first began working for the Estee Lauder Company in 1964. He became general manager of Clinique Laboratories in 1985, where he was credited with helping Clinique, one of Estee Lauder’s brands, become a profitable business. He remains chairman of Clinique Laboratories and an executive officer at the company.

What causes do the Lauders support?

Lauder has also been president of the World Jewish Congress since 2007, an organization representing and advocating for international Jewish communities, and is president of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, which he established in 1987 to focus on strengthening Jewish education. He’s been involved in various other Jewish philanthropic causes, including funding $25 million into his Anti-Semitism Accountability Project in 2019, which raises awareness regarding anti-semitism in U.S. politics.

He also previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for NATO affairs from 1983 to 1986, and was appointed as U.S. ambassador to Austria by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Lauder is a prominent Republican funder, donating millions to politicians such as Lee Zeldin and Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Lauder’s brother Leonard, 90, has previously been a donor for Kathy Hochul. With an estimated net worth of $21.2 billion, he first joined Estee Lauder Company in 1958 and served as CEO from 1982 to 1999, overseeing the company’s acquisition of brands like Mac and Bobbi Brown in the 1990s. He is known for coining the term “lipstick index,” referring to the theory that sales of lipstick and other affordable beauty items rise in economic downturns.

Leonard remains on as the company’s chairman emeritus and, like his brother, has become a prominent philanthropist, donating $125 million to create a tuition-free nursing program at the University of Pennsylvania in 2022, the largest gift ever made to a U.S. nursing school.

Both brothers are also avid art collectors. Lauder founded the Neue Galerie in 2001, a museum dedicated to German and Austrian art, and was previously chairman of the Museum of Modern Art from 1995 to 2005, while Leonard in 2013 gifted the Metropolitan Museum of Art his 78-piece Cubist art collection, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

The four children of the Lauder brothers, most of whom now hold executive roles at Estee Lauder Company, were also named in the $200 million pledge to the ADDF. “When my brother and I began this project 25 years ago, there was little hope on the horizon for Alzheimer’s disease,” Ronald Lauder said. “We are proud of the undeniable impact the ADDF has made over the past two decades and we are more confident than ever for the future.”

Billionaires Ronald and Leonard Lauder Donate $200M to Alzheimer’s Research