Susie Tompkins Buell

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Susie Tompkins Buell
Born1943 (age 76–77)
Known forFounder of Esprit
Douglas Tompkins
(m. 1964; div. 1989)

Mark Buell

Susie Tompkins Buell (née Russell; born 1943)[1] is an American entrepreneur, businesswoman and a donor to progressive[citation needed] causes. Tompkins Buell co-founded the Esprit clothing and The North Face brand with her first husband, Doug Tompkins whom she met when she picked him up while he was hitchhiking.[2] She is also noted for her close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton and her status as a Democratic Party megadonor.[3]

Investor and businesswoman[edit]

In 1967, Tompkins Buell and Jane Tise co-founded the Plain Jane clothing label. Plain Jane was making $2 million a 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.[4]

By 1986, the global clothing brand had reached $800 million in sales. The Tompkins' divorced in 1989.[5]

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 in less than two years it went into technical default on its outstanding loans. 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 Esprit, 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.[5][6]

Democratic Party activism[edit]

Tompkins Buell is often described as Hillary Clinton's soul mate.[7] She led Clinton's fundraising efforts for 2008 in the San Francisco Bay area.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] Buell along with George Soros and other Democracy Alliance members John R. Hunting; Paul Rudd (co-founder of Adaptive Analytics); Pat Stryker; Nicholas Hanauer; ex-Clinton administration official Rob Stein; Drummond Pike; real estate developer Robert Bowditch; Pioneer Hybrid International-heir and congressional candidate Scott Wallace; Gail Furman; real estate developer Albert Dwoskin; and Taco Bell-heir Rob McKay, funded the Secretary of State Project, an American non-profit, 527 political action committee focused on electing reform-minded progressive Secretaries of State in battleground states, who typically oversee the election process.[11] The Alliance was critical in getting California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie re-elected.

In February 2012, Tompkins Buell stopped supporting President Barack Obama, citing disappointment with his leadership on environmental issues including climate change.[12]

In 2016, Tompkins Buell donated $500,000 to lawyer Lisa Bloom's firm in order to assist women who came forward with sexual harassment and assault allegations against Donald Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election.[1][13][14]


  1. ^ a b Basu, Ayushman (January 1, 2018). "Who Is Susie Tompkins Buell? Woman Funded Sexual Harassment Cases Against Trump". International Business Times. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  2. ^ Halper, Evan. "Meet one of Hillary Clinton's biggest donors in California. They hardly ever talk politics". Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  3. ^ Vogel, Kenneth (January 1, 2018). "Sexual harassment politics". NYTimes. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  4. ^ "Susie Tompkins Fashion Designer". Infomat. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  5. ^ a b Smith, Matt (October 8, 1997). "Esprit de Court". San Francisco Weekly. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  6. ^ Ginsberg, Steve (September 14, 1997). "Susie Tompkins battles Esprit". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  7. ^ Gerth, Jeff; Van Natta, Don (2007). Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Littel & Brown. ISBN 9780316007849.
  8. ^ Mosk, Matthew; Cohen, Sarah (March 24, 2007). "Democratic Hopefuls Getting More Green in Wealthy Bay Area". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  9. ^ VandeHei, Jim; Cillizza, Chris (July 17, 2006). "A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  10. ^ Adamson, Rondi (October 29, 2007). "Soros-Funded Media Matters Attacks Conservatives". Human Events. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  11. ^ Neubauer, Chuck (June 23, 2011). "Soros and liberal groups seeking top election posts in battleground states". Washington Times.
  12. ^ Marinucci, Carla; Garofoli, Joe (February 16, 2012). "Obama losing financial backing of big S.F. donor". SFGate. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  13. ^ Vogel, Kenneth (December 31, 2017). "Partisans, Wielding Money, Begin Seeking to Exploit Harassment Claims". New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  14. ^ Solis, Marie (January 1, 2018). "Who Is Susie Tompkins Buell? Clinton Donor Gave $500,000 to Fund Trump Sexual Misconduct Accusers". Newsweek. Retrieved 30 March 2018.

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