Susie Tompkins Buell
Susie Tompkins Buell (née Russell, born 1943) is an American entrepreneur, businesswoman and a donor to progressive causes. Tompkins Buell co-founded the Esprit clothing and North Face brand with her first husband, Doug Tompkins whom she met when she picked him up while he was hitchhiking. She is also noted for her close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton and her status as a Democratic Party megadonor.
Investor and businesswoman
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.
By 1986, the global clothing brand had reached $800 million in sales. The Tompkins' divorced in 1989.
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.
Democratic Party activism
Tompkins Buell is often described as Hillary Clinton's soul mate. She led Clinton's fundraising efforts for 2008 in the San Francisco Bay area. 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. 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.
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.
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