Mortimer Sackler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mortimer Sackler
Mortimer David Sackler

(1916-12-07)December 7, 1916
Brooklyn, New York City, US
DiedMarch 24, 2010(2010-03-24) (aged 93)[1]
Gstaad, Switzerland[1]
EducationUniversity of Glasgow
Middlesex University School of Medicine, US[1][3]
OccupationPhysician and entrepreneur
Known forOxycontin
  • Muriel Lazarus (1917–2009),[4] married and divorced
  • Gertraud (Gheri) Wimmer, married 1969[5] and divorced
  • Theresa Elizabeth Rowling (1949 – ),[6] married 1980[1]

Mortimer David Sackler KBE December 7, 1916 – March 24, 2010) was an American-born British psychiatrist and entrepreneur who was a co-owner, with his brother Raymond, of Purdue Pharma. During his lifetime, Sackler was best known for his lavish philanthropy which included donations to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Gallery, the Royal College of Art, the Louvre and Berlin's Jewish Museum, but after his death his company became embroiled in a major scandal about the aggressive marketing of highly addictive opioids.[6][7][8][1][9]

Early life[edit]

Mortimer Sackler was the second son of Jewish immigrants Isaac Sackler, who was born in what is now Ukraine, and Sophie (née Greenberg) Sackler from Poland.[1] His father was a grocer in Brooklyn, where Sackler attended Erasmus Hall High School.[1] He had two brothers,[10] Arthur, the oldest who died in 1987, and Raymond, the youngest of the three who died in 2017.[8]


He attended the Anderson College of Medicine of Glasgow University between 1937 and 1939. Although he was born in New York, he said that he was not accepted by a New York medical school because they had quotas on the number of Jewish students they would accept, at that time.[1] He sailed steerage to the United Kingdom.[10] In Glasgow there was a well-established Jewish community that offered him hospitality and supported him while he attended university.[3] Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, Sackler was prevented from finishing his medical education at this school. He instead obtained an M.D. degree at the Middlesex University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, United States in 1944.[3][10][11]

Early career[edit]

During the Korean War, he was an army psychiatrist in Denver, Colorado, before joining his brothers, Arthur and Raymond, both newly graduated medical doctors, at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in New York City.[12] The three "became a moving force in the research and clinical outpatient department at Creedmore, which would become the Creedmore Institute for Psychobiologic Studies". According to The Independent, during the 1950s the brothers "undertook pioneering research into how alterations in bodily function can affect mental illness. This work contributed to a move away from treatments such as electroshock therapy and lobotomy towards pharmaceutical treatment or psychoanalysis."[3][13]


In 1952, Mortimer and Raymond became the co-chairmen of a small Greenwich Village-based pharmaceutical company that Arthur had financed. The Purdue Frederick Company later became the Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma.[1] With Raymond, he established pharmaceutical companies[1] in Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK.[3]

Purdue Pharma[edit]

At the time of Arthur Sackler's death in 1987, Purdue Pharma was a small drug company.[1] In 1996, Purdue introduced its opioid drug, OxyContin.[14] By 2001, eighty percent of Purdue Pharmacy's revenue came from the sale of OxyContin worth $3 billion.[1] According to The New Yorker, as of 2017 OxyContin, a blockbuster drug "reportedly generated some 35 billion dollars in revenue for Purdue".[8] Forbes listed the Sackler family as the 19th wealthiest in the United States in 2016 with a fortune of $13 billion.[15] The largest part of the Sackler family's fortune came from the sale of OxyContin.[15][7] Mortimer served as co-chairman of Purdue Pharma Inc from 1952 until 2007.[3]


The Sackler Crossing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Sackler name is displayed at numerous cultural and educational institutions in the United States and in Europe including "Harvard, the Smithsonian and the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery which opened in 2013,[16] the new forecourt at the Victoria & Albert Museum, a Sackler Crossing – a walkway over the lakebridge at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Tate Gallery, the National Gallery, the Royal Opera House and behind research centers at several UK universities."[17] He donated to the Royal College of Art, the Louvre and Berlin's Jewish Museum,[8] He donated to research facilities and professorships at MIT, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford and others in the US, Sackler Library at the University of Oxford, Sackler Laboratories at the University of Reading, Sackler Musculoskeletal Research Centre, University College London, Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology at King's College London,[18] Sackler Biodiversity Imaging Laboratory at the Natural History Museum, London. Jointly with his brothers he endowed the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University.[6][15][10]

He set up the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation[19] jointly with third wife, Dame Theresa Elizabeth Sackler. The foundation's donations include the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex.[20] and a contribution to the Imaging Centre of Excellence [21] at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, containing Scotland's first 7 Tesla MRI.


In 1995, Sackler was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to education.

Personal life[edit]

Sackler married three times. His first wife was Glasgow-born Muriel Lazarus (1917–2009); they had three children before divorcing, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt (b. 1948 m. Gerald B. Lefcourt), Kathe A. Sackler, M.D. (married to Susan Shack Sackler), and Robert Mortimer Sackler (predeceased).[22] His second wife was Gertraud "Geri" Wimmer;[5] they had two children before divorcing, Mortimer David Alfons Sackler, and Samantha Sophia Sackler Hunt. In 1980, he married his third wife, Theresa Elizabeth Rowling (b. 1949),[17] from Staffordshire, England who was formerly a teacher at the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion convent in London's Notting Hill Gate. In 2011, Rowling became Dame Theresa Sackler for her work as philanthropist.[2] They had three children, Marissa Sackler, Sophia Sackler (m. Jamie Dalrymple) and Michael Sackler who were raised in London.[2] Theresa is a member of the board of directors of Purdue Pharma.[17]

Sackler lived in London since 1974, when he renounced his American citizenship;[1][8] he also spent time at his other properties including his estate in Berkshire Downs, Rooksnest, Berkshire with nineteen acres of ornate gardens by award-winning designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd.[23][Notes 1] and in their residences in the Swiss Alps, and the French Riviera.[8]

According to a February 13, 2018 article in The Guardian, Mortimer Sackler had seven surviving children, three of whom are on the board of directors of the company he co-founded, Purdue Pharma—Ilene Sackler, Kathe A. Sackler, and Mortimer David Alfons Sackler, (b. 1972) and four who are not—Samantha Sophia Sackler Hunt, Marissa Sackler, Sophie Sackler, and Michael Sackler.[17]


Sackler died at age 93 in Gstaad, Bern, Switzerland, survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, as well as four children from his previous two marriages, and his younger brother, Raymond Sackler.[6]


On October 30, 2017, The New Yorker published a multi-page exposé on Mortimer Sackler, Purdue Pharma, and the entire Sackler family.[8] The article links Raymond and Arthur Sackler's business acumen with the rise of direct pharmaceutical marketing and eventually to the rise of addiction to OxyContin in the United States. The article implies that Sackler bears some moral responsibility for the opioid epidemic in the United States.[8] In 2019 The New York Times ran a piece[24] confirming that Sackler told company officials in 2008 to "measure our performance by Rx's by strength, giving higher measures to higher strengths". This was verified again with legally obtained documents tied to a new lawsuit, which was filed in June by the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey. The Times reported that the lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family "knew that putting patients on high dosages of OxyContin for long periods increased the risks of serious side effects, including addiction. Nonetheless, they promoted higher dosages because stronger pain pills brought the company and the Sacklers the most profit".[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A cited in Mortimer Sackler's obituary in The Sunday Times, In 2002, as part of a charity auction she named a new rose cultivar bred by David Austin, after Mortimer, because of the quality of giving the "impression of delicacy and softness but are, in fact, very tough and little affected by bad weather".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Weber, Bruce (March 31, 2010). "Mortimer D. Sackler, Arts Patron, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Billionaire philanthropist Sackler was tax avoider on industrial scale". Evening Standard. November 5, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dalyell, Tam (March 31, 2010). "Doctor Mortimer Sackler: Philanthropist who repaid many times over the debt he felt he owed Britain". The Independent. Obituary. Retrieved January 2, 2019. Member, Chancellor's Court of Benefactors, Oxford University from 1993; PhD Tel Aviv 1980; Officier, Légion d'Honneur 1997; honorary KBE 1999; Honorary Fellow, King's College, London 2001
  4. ^ NYT obituary
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b c d Maugh II, Thomas H. (April 19, 2010). "Mortimer Sackler dies at 93; arts patron was co-owner of Purdue Pharma". Obituary. Retrieved January 2, 2018. Purdue Pharma developed the painkiller OxyContin, which had sales of $3 billion by 2001. Sackler used profits from the firm to fund arts and universities in the U.S. and Europe.
  7. ^ a b Glazek, Christopher (October 16, 2017). "The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis". Esquire. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Keefe, Patrick Radden (23 October 2017). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  9. ^ Davison, Phil (April 24, 2010). "Drugs mogul with a vast philanthropic legacy". The Financial Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d "Dr Mortimer Sackler". The Telegraph. April 27, 2010. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  11. ^ "The University of Glasgow Story: Mortimer Sackler". Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  12. ^ "Drugs mogul with a vast philanthropic legacy". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  13. ^ Green, David B. (2015-03-24). "This Day in Jewish History 2010: You've Been to at Least One Museum Wing That Was Named for This Man". Haaretz. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  14. ^ "OxyContin® (oxycodone HCl) Extended-Release Tablets | Official Site for Patients & Caregivers". Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  15. ^ a b c "#19 Sackler family $13B". Forbes. 2016 America's Richest Families Net Worth. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  16. ^ "A New Public Gallery: The Royal Parks and the Serpentine Gallery Agree to New Venue". November 2, 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  17. ^ a b c d Walters, Joanna (February 13, 2018). "Meet the Sacklers: the family feuding over blame for the opioid crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  18. ^ "King's College London – Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine". Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  19. ^ Charity Commission. The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, registered charity no. 1128926.
  20. ^ "About Dame Theresa Sackler". Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. University of Sussex. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  21. ^ "Scotland's first 7T scanner arrives at the QEUH". Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  22. ^ "SACKLER—Muriel Lazarus, (1917–2009), died peacefully surrounded by her family on October 7, 2009". The New York Times. October 9, 2009.
  23. ^ Meddings, Sabah (November 19, 2017). "The Sackler family: an empire built on painkillers". The Sunday Times. ISSN 0956-1382. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  24. ^ a b Meier, Barry (2019-01-31). "Sackler Scion's Email Reveals Push for High-Dose OxyContin, New Lawsuit Disclosures Claim". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-03.


External links[edit]