photographed by Malú Alvarez
styled by Emily Barnes
hair and makeup by Vincent Roppatte of Saks Fifth Avenue
fashion assistance by Kacey Bennett
photo assistance by Erika Hokanson
The former Jersey girl wants a fairer world and a certain friend in the White House.
Sometime during the months after Hillary Clinton had stepped down as secretary of state and before she announced to the country that she would mount another run for president, Lynn Forester de Rothschild said this to her longtime friend: “I just want you to know I pray every night that I die before my children and after you are president.”
De Rothschild pauses for a moment in recounting that story, then laughs her deep, throaty laugh. “But no pressure!” she says.
We are speaking in the midst of the Democratic primary present, and all looks pretty good for Clinton securing the nomination. The rest of the saga is not yet history, but of course, both women are hoping fervently that history will be made in November. “Yes,” Forester de Rothschild confirms. “The first woman president…that really would be historic.”
Relating this story in her trademark, perfectly tailored sleeveless dress and easy smile, Forester de Rothschild has managed to convey a lot about what is driving her these days in very few words. She has always been driven—how else would a self-described middle-class girl from the New Jersey suburbs have risen to such prominent heights?—but now she has stepped down as CEO of E.L. Rothschild, the family’s holding company, and finds that her priorities have shifted. While she still sits on a couple of boards—Estée Lauder and her beloved Economist—she is mostly devoting herself to two nonprofit pursuits these days. They are the Clinton campaign and a group she founded called the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism. “I feel like I can now take the 30,000-foot view,” Lady de Rothschild says. “More than anything, I’d like to help restore the world I grew up in, where if you were middle class, worked hard and played by the rules, you could make it. That’s more important to me now than making a bit more money.”
The world she grew up in as the only daughter among four children of a self-made, hardworking businessman father does seem to harken back to a Normal Rockwell past that has all but faded from view. An overachiever from a young age, Lynn Forester attended highly selective Pomona College in California, and then Columbia Law School. In between, she acquired her taste for (mostly Democratic) politics while volunteering for Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. After practicing law for a few years, she went to work for telecom billionaire John Kluge, savvily building his wealth with strategic investments in the emerging telecom market, and then later went out on her own as an international telecom investor in partnership with Motorola. In 1995, she sold her stake in a company called TPI Communications International, Inc., to Motorola reportedly for a nine-figure sum.
But she never lost her taste for politics, and was for a while married to New York City Council president Andrew Stein, with whom she has two sons, Jake, now 28, and Ben, now 30. Jake works in film, Ben in finance. “They are,” she says proudly, “the miracles of my life.”
Her friendship with the Clintons dates back to the early ’90s, to Bill Clinton’s first campaign and administration. Lynn Forester was already a powerhouse Democratic fundraiser and played a small role in his administration. It was Henry Kissinger who introduced her in 1998 to Sir Evelyn de Rothschild at the Bilderberg Group conference, an annual confab of industry and political leaders, in Scotland.
Two years later they were married, and Lynn Forester from Bergen County, New Jersey, became a bona fide Lady. Sir Evelyn and Lady de Rothschild spent part of their honeymoon in the White House, a stay during which Bill Clinton told the couple that Sir Evelyn was the first Brit to be so invited since Winston Churchill, a fun fact that made a lasting impression on the newlyweds. De Rothschild has been an ardent Hillary supporter ever since, and though she was bitterly disappointed when Obama took the nomination in 2008 and she very publicly decamped to John McCain, she’s never stopped being a Hillary person.
When she isn’t hitting the campaign trail hard for Clinton—spending weeks in South Carolina before the primary, for instance—Lady de Rothschild and Sir Evelyn divided their time between their apartments in New York and London, the Rothschild family’s historic country estate in England, and their gorgeous, homey, recently renovated compound in Martha’s Vineyard, an ideal setting for high-powered political fundraisers, among other functions. A powder room in the Martha’s Vineyard home is papered with covers from The Economist, a reminder of the publication where her heart lies, and from which she frequently tweets articles.
Tall, slim, gracious, her blond hair always perfectly coiffed (by her dear friend and trusted Saks stylist Vincent Roppatte), Forester de Rothschild might be able to play the part of the trophy wife, but is, of course, the farthest thing from it, having earned her success very much on her own. And marriage to English nobility, as many have noted, did nothing to dampen her ambition. As Ariana Huffington once said about her, “It’s safe to say that there aren’t too many Rothschild marriages in which it’s unclear which party brings more to the table.”
Still, she wears her accomplishments in business and politics lightly these days, and readily shares the fun fact that, just a few short years ago, she became the oldest NFL cheerleader for childhood favorites the Philadelphia Eagles. With arms that rival
Michelle Obama’s for tone and a wardrobe that shows them off, she allows that these days she works outs regularly to maintain her fitness: 45 minutes on the elliptical machine no less than three times a week.
Mental and physical stamina has always been a key component to her success. Back in 2007, she was asked to describe her work ethic in an interview with Portfolio magazine. “I am a 10- to 12-hour-a-day girl, because in my family, the world is divided into show horses, racehorses, and horses’ asses,” she quipped. “I was told, you know, I’m a racehorse, and I better be practicing if I’m going to be racing.”
Now, that practiced racehorse is applying her stamina and smarts in the more public sphere. And as most people with strong political opinions tend to do, she not only extolls the virtues of her candidate, whom she firmly believes is a “change maker, not a change talker,” and a leader who practices “the art of the possible.” But Lady de Rothschild is acutely aware that American-style capitalism and its ties to widening inequality is a big issue in both the Democratic campaign for the presidency and the country as a whole, and that it needs fixing. Still, she adds, “We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Socialism has already been tried, and it didn’t deliver the goods. We need to make capitalism more inclusive.”
This belief fuels her other passionate pursuit these days as the founder of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, the mission of which is to identify, encourage and invest in companies the world over that “take care of their people, their product and the planet,” de Rothschild says. The goal is creating prosperity for many, many more than the narrow one percent who have become so renowned today.
In a highly personal piece she wrote for the Daily Mail in 2012, De Rothschild wrote about her desire to rescue capitalism from greed and corruption. “Can a middle-class girl from nowhere ‘be good’ and make it the way I did? I seriously wonder if she even would want to try,” she wrote. “The bedrock of my view of the world was that economic success was available for those who are not born at the top of the ladder. But this is a difficult dream to believe in these days (that is why satirist George Carlin said: ‘They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it’).”
As strongly worded as that essay was, de Rothschild makes clear that some of the world’s richest people have also done an enormous amount of good. “What would we do without the Buffetts, the Gateses, the Forbeses and the Bloombergs and their philanthropy?” she asks rhetorically. She is not, as one financial publication scoffed, advocating that billionaires become Marxists.
The Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism kicked off in London in 2014 at the Mansion House, with both Bill Clinton and IMF head Christine Lagarde giving speeches. “We are all here to discuss ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ and when Lynn sent me the theme, I thought only Lynn could convene such a room on such a theme,” Lagarde told the assembled luminaries. “So I can assure you Lynn, that in this initiative, the IMF will be on your side”
A year later, it was Prince Charles’ turn to sing her praises. “I was most flattered, and surprised, to have been asked by Lady Rothschild to take part in this, the second Inclusive Capitalism Conference,” he said. “If today’s meeting is anything like the astonishing event Lynn organized last year, then I am sure it will provide much food for some badly needed, innovative thought.”
“It’s a bit of a movement,” Lady de Rothschild says. “And it is bipartisan. As this becomes more mainstream, I firmly believe it will help political discourse.” She notes that conference participants include people from disparate parts of the political spectrum, from Sharan Burrow, the Australian labor leader, to Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, delivered a letter from Pope Francis and rubbed shoulders with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. A third conference is planned for New York in October.
Not bad for a middle-class girl from New Jersey whose main goals at this stage of life is leaving the world a little fairer for her kids and the U.S. presidency a little more gender neutral.