You may not be familiar with the Sackler family name, but the Sacklers are among the wealthiest families in America. They own Purdue Pharma, the huge pharmaceutical company responsible for the development, manufacturing, and marketing of OxyContin.
There have been controversial lawsuits against Purdue Pharma. Huge marketing campaigns from the Sackler family made the drug very popular, and in turn, the family grew very wealthy. Meanwhile, they reportedly downplayed how addictive OxyContin is.
Who is the Sackler family?
The Sackler family, like so many others, immigrated to America before World War 1. According to The Guardian, after Isaac Sackler and Sophie Greenberg made it to the country through New York, the couple had three sons. Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond all went on to have multiple children of their own, and many of them have had successful careers.
Michael Sackler, for example, is one of Mortimer's sons and a film producer. His daughter, Samantha, married the co-founder of Seattle Coffee Company. Elizabeth, one of Arthur Sackler's kids, is the benefactor of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Mortimer and Raymond Sackler were both executives of Purdue Pharma.
How did the Sackler family make its money?
Even though many of the Sackler children have gone on to make money through avenues outside of the family business, Purdue Pharma is 100 percent owned by the Sackler family. The pharmaceutical company filed for bankruptcy in September of 2019.
Arthur Sackler's children are the only ones who haven't made money from Purdue. His daughter, Elizabeth, has removed herself from her family's company and called the fortune her family earned from OxyContin “morally abhorrent,” according to The Guardian.
What is the Sackler Family's net worth?
Purdue Pharma used to make billions from OxyContin. The New York Times reported that only a few years after the drug was put on the market in 1996, it was making one billion dollars per year. An article by Business Insider says that the Sackler family made over $10 billion from the company, but Forbes says the number is closer to $12 billion–$13 billion.
OxyContin is what got the Sackler family its recognition and wealth, but it's not all that makes up the family's net worth. For example, the Seattle Coffee Company Samantha Sackler married into was bought by Starbucks in 2003 for $72 million.
Has the family been impacted by the Purdue Pharma lawsuit?
After Purdue Pharma was accused of playing a big role in the opioid epidemic, the company filed for bankruptcy. The family has been accused of marketing OxyContin as being safer than it actually is and claiming that doctors' concerns were exaggerated.
Even though many of Purdue's lawsuits are against the company, many list members of the Sackler family as defendants. The New Yorker suggests the family may try to get out of this predicament the same way it did in 2007, when no charges were pressed against them. In October 2020, Purdue pled guilty to criminal charges and agreed to an $8.3 billion settlement, according to the BBC.
Is the Sackler family involved in philanthropy?
Even though the Sackler family has been blamed for the OxyContin epidemic, it has donated a lot of money to different organizations. For example, between 2013 and 2019, the family gave $60 million to universities in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Israel.
Many institutions have dedicated areas to the family: there's the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities in the Louvre, the Sackler Institute at Columbia University, and the Sackler Library at Oxford. But because of the lawsuits and accusations against the family, museums are cutting ties with them.
According to The New York Times, museums such as the Guggenheim and Britain’s National Portrait Gallery have begun turning away Sackler money. Other institutions have also begun reviewing their donation policies because of the controversial family.