Sackler family

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The Sackler family is an American and British family whose members are known for founding and owning the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which created the medication OxyContin. Purdue Pharma, and by extension some members of the family, have faced criticism and lawsuits amid Purdue Pharma's role in the North American opioid crisis.[1][2] The Sackler family is known for philanthropy in support of cultural and educational institutions. In 2019, a number of prominent cultural institutions announced that they would stop accepting gifts from the family.


The Sackler family are descendants of Isaac Sackler and his wife Sophie (née Greenberg), immigrants to the United States from Galicia (now Ukraine) and Poland,[3] who established a grocery business in Brooklyn. The couple had three sons, Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler who each went to medical school and became psychiatrists. In 1952, the brothers bought a small pharmaceutical company, Purdue Fredericks, in Connecticut. Arthur, the oldest brother, became a pioneer in medical advertising. After his death in 1987, his option on one third of that company was sold by his estate to his two brothers.[4]

Their private company, now known as Purdue Pharma, introduced OxyContin in 1996, a version of oxycodone reformulated in a slow-release form. Misbranded and heavily promoted,[5][6] oxycodone is seen as a key drug in the emergence of the opioid epidemic.[7][8] Elizabeth Sackler, daughter of Arthur Sackler, claimed that her branch of the family did not participate in or benefit from the sales of narcotics.[9][10]

The family was first listed in Forbes list of America's Richest Families in 2015.[3]


The Sackler family has made a name as philanthropists and supported major cultural institutions, among them the Jewish Museum (Manhattan), Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian, the Tate Gallery, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the British Museum, Shakespeare's Globe, the Serpentine Galleries, and the Louvre.[11][12]

The family has also supported universities, including Harvard University, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Columbia University, Tufts University, New York University, the Royal College of Art, the University of Sussex, and the University of Edinburgh.[3][11] The Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University is named after Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler for their donations. Similarly, the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology at King's College London was named after Mortimer and Theresa Sackler.[13][14]

The Sackler family name, as used in institutions which the family have donated to, saw increased scrutiny in the late 2010s over the family's association with OxyContin. David Crow, writing in the Financial Times, described the family name as "tainted".[15][16]

In March 2019, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate galleries in the UK announced that they would not accept further donations from the family. This came after the American photographer Nan Goldin threatened to withdraw a planned retrospective of her work in the National Portrait Gallery if the gallery accepted a £1 million donation from a Sackler fund.[17][18] Later in 2019, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, each announced they will not accept future donations from the Sacklers.[19]


  • Isaac Sackler and Sophie Greenberg
    • Arthur Sackler, (1913–1987),[20] married Else Finnich Jorgensen 1934 and divorced[21][5], married Marietta Lutze 1949 and divorced, and Jillian Lesley Tully 1981 until death
    • Mortimer Sackler (1916–2010) obtained British citizenship and renounced American citizenship,[22] married Muriel Lazarus (1917–2009) and divorced,[23], Gertraud (Gheri) Wimmer - married 1969[24] and divorced, Theresa Elizabeth Rowling (born 1949) - married in 1980 until death
      • American-born: Ilene Sackler Lefcourt (married Gerald B. Lefcourt and divorced), Kathe Sackler, Mortimer A. Sackler (married Jaqueline Sackler), Samantha Sophia Sackler Hunt[5]
      • British-born: Marissa Sackler, Sophie Sackler (married Jamie Dalrymple), Michael Sackler[5]
    • Raymond Sackler (1920–2017), married Beverly Feldman in 1944 until death[5]
      • Richard Sackler, born 1945, married Beth Sackler and divorced.[7]
        • David Sackler (married Joss Sackler)
        • Marianna Sackler (married James Frame)
      • Jonathan Sackler

Opioid lawsuits[edit]

In 2019, a suit was brought in the Southern District of New York, which included more than 500 counties, cities and Native American tribes. It named eight family members: Richard, Jonathan, Mortimer, Kathe, David, Beverly and Theresa Sackler, as well as Ilene Sackler Lefcourt.[25] As well, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Utah all brought suits against the family. On the Federal level, the family faced an overall bundle of 1,600 cases.[26]


  1. ^ Ellis, Ralph; Schuman, Melanie (March 24, 2019). "Hundreds of cities, counties and Native American tribes file federal lawsuit against Sackler family over opioid crisis". CNN. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  2. ^ Perraudin, Frances. "Sackler Trust halts new philanthropic giving due to opioid lawsuits". The Guardian.
  3. ^ a b c Alex Morrell (July 1, 2015). "The OxyContin Clan: The $14 Billion Newcomer to Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families". Forbes. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  4. ^ "Our Incomplete List of Cultural Institutions and Initiatives Funded by the Sackler Family". Hyperallergic. 2018-01-11. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  5. ^ a b c d e Joanna Walters (February 18, 2018). "Meet the Sacklers: the family feuding over blame for the opioid crisis". The Guardian. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  6. ^ Barry Meyer (May 10, 2007). "In Guilty Plea, OxyContin Maker to Pay 600 Million". New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Christopher Glazek (October 16, 2017). "The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis". Esquire. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  8. ^ Keefe, Patrick Radden (October 23, 2017). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  9. ^ "Nan Goldin Receives Elizabeth A. Sackler's Support in Condemning Purdue Pharma". Artforum ( January 23, 2018. and Sackler, Elizabeth A. (February 1, 2018). "Growing P.A.I.N." Artforum ( Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  10. ^ "Sackler scion backs photog's campaign against OxyContin". Page Six. January 18, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Goukassian, Elena. "Our Incomplete List of Cultural Institutions and Initiatives Funded by the Sackler Family". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Annual Campaign 2016". The Jewish Museum. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  13. ^ "New Sackler Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences". 13 February 2002. Archived from the original on 2 October 2015.
  14. ^ Cohen, David (March 19, 2018). "The Opioid Timebomb: The Sackler family and how their painkiller fortune helps bankroll London arts". Evening Standard. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  15. ^ David Crow (September 8, 2018). "What next for the Sacklers? A pharma dynasty under siege". Financial Times. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  16. ^ David Armstrong (February 21, 2019). "Sackler Embraced Plan to Conceal OxyContin's Strength From Doctors, Sealed Testimony Shows". ProPublica. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  17. ^ "Tate art galleries will no longer accept donations from the Sackler family". Guardian. 22 March 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  18. ^ Walters, Joanna. "Nan Goldin threatens London gallery boycott over £1m gift from Sackler fund". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  19. ^ Harris, Elizabeth A. (May 15, 2019). "The Met Will Turn Down Sackler Money Amid Fury Over the Opioid Crisis". The New York Times. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  20. ^ Glueck, Grace (1987-05-27). "Dr. Arthur Sackler Dies at 73; Philanthropist and Art Patron". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  21. ^ Else Sackler death notice
  22. ^ David Cohen (May 11, 2018). "The Sackler Files: Billionaire liked to parade as philanthropist... in fact he was tax avoider on industrial scale". Evening Standard. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  23. ^ Muriel L. Sackler , NYT obituary
  24. ^
  25. ^ "New York Sues Sackler Family Members and Drug Distributors", New York Times, March 28, 2019.
  26. ^ "Lawsuits Lay Bare Sackler Family’s Role in Opioid Crisis", New York Times, April 1, 2019.