Ronald Lauder: Tax & the New York Times

ronaldlauder Ronald Lauder: Tax & the New York Times

Ronald Lauder, of the famed Estée Lauder fortune (left), was the subject yesterday of an exhaustive and aggressive NYTimes front pager. The article examined his alleged tax minimization strategies.

It’s the dread of every PR when the client is targeted as the poster child for a wider pernicious issue.  In this case, tax avoidance.

Lauder’s PR strategy was to focus on nearly $250M in charitable donations.  And while conceding that some transactions were designed for tax reasons, the PR emphasis was that they were code compliant.

No doubt it was an infuriating morning for Lauder. This is press coverage no one wants.

The PR Verdict: “B Plus” for Ron Lauder and his PR. Reputation management is never easy. Killing the story was unlikely as Lauder’s financial dealings are a matter of public record.

Next Step: Close the conversation with a follow-up Letter to the Editor, reiterating Lauder’s civic record, pointing out the absence of any known investigation into the client (if true). Consider releasing the number of total tax dollars Lauder paid over the same time period.

Draw a sharp distinction between efficient tax planning and the article’s suggestion of something altogether more unethical.

Above all, refrain from disclosing anything that takes the story further.

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What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. Peter Emmerich says:

    Of course it must be terrible to find oneself as the poster child for this subject on the front page of the Sunday NYT. However, as mentioned before, I thought the Times was rather factual and did not portray Lauder as a crook. It rather presented a good example of all the many legal ways for the wealthy to avoid taxes. What savvy businessman would not make use of them? And yes, the PR answer should highlight his philanthropy and the amount of taxes he did pay.

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