Susie Tompkins Buell

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Susie Tompkins Buell is an American entrepreneur and liberal political donor. Tompkins Buell co-founded the Esprit clothing brand. She is noted for her close friendship with Hillary Clinton and her financial support of various progressive political causes.

Investor and businesswoman[edit]

In 1967, Tompkins Buell and Jane Tise co-founded the Plain Jane clothing label. Plain Jane was making $2 million year by 1970. Tompkins Buell's then-husband Douglas Tompkins, whom she had married in 1964 after the pair met while hitchhiking, recommended changing the name to Esprit.[1]

By 1986, the global clothing brand had reached $800 million in sales. The Tompkinses divorced in 1989.[2]

In 1990, Tompkins Buell led a leveraged buyout that gained her control of the company, and netted her an estimated $150 million. Esprit emerged from the buyout so deeply in debt that it went into technical default on its outstanding loans within less than two years. In 1997, CEO Jay Margolis banned Tompkins Buell and all members of her family from entering Esprit's headquarters. Also in 1997, Tompkins Buell filed a lawsuit against Espirit, seeking about $4 million in reimbursements from the company for tax payments she made after selling much of her stake in the company to investors.[2][3]

Democratic Party activism[edit]

Tompkins Buell is often described as Hillary Clinton's best friend.[4] She led Clinton's fundraising efforts for 2008 in the San Francisco Bay area.[5]

In 2006, the Washington Post published a story about the Democracy Alliance, calling it an "exclusive donor club" for progressive donors and identifying Tompkins Buell and her husband Mark Buell as members.[6]

Tompkins Buell held a fundraiser for David Brock's Media Matters at her San Francisco home. A foundation that bears her name gave money to Media Matters through the Tides Foundation.[7]

In February 2012, Tompkins Buell stopped financially supporting President Barack Obama, citing disappointment with his leadership on environmental issues including climate change.[8]


  1. ^ "Susie Tompkins Fashion Designer". Infomat. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, Matt (October 8, 1997). "Esprit de Court". San Francisco Weekly. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  3. ^ Ginsberg, Steve (September 14, 1997). "Susie Tompkins battles Esprit". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Gerth, Jeff; Van Natta, Don (2007). Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Littel & Brown. ISBN 9780316007849. 
  5. ^ Mosk, Matthew; Cohen, Sarah (March 24, 2007). "Democratic Hopefuls Getting More Green in Wealthy Bay Area". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  6. ^ VandeHei, Jim; Cillizza, Chris (July 17, 2006). "A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Adamson, Rondi (October 29, 2007). "Soros-Funded Media Matters Attacks Conservatives". Human Events. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Marinucci, Carla; Garofoli, Joe (February 16, 2012). "Obama losing financial backing of big S.F. donor". SFGate. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 

External links[edit]