Ronald Lauder, the 37-year-old executive vice president of Estee Lauder Inc. and the chairman of Estee Lauder International, is under consideration for a job in the Defense Department, a White House official says.
Lauder, who is also the outgoing Republican state finance chairman in New York, couldn't be reached for comment.
"We want him on board," said Helene von Damm, the White House personnel director. "But we don't know exactly where. He's philosophically in line with the president, and is a capable, proven manager."
Several published reports have speculated that Lauder's job will be deputy assistant secretary for European and NATO affairs, but a Defense spokesman wouldn't confirm it. "But he has been in and out of the Defense Department talking to various officials about defense matters," said the spokesman, Ben Welles. "He has been highly supportive of the administration's defense policy in the New York area."
Lauder is the second son of Estee Lauder, the cosmetics magnate who has been a guest at the White House as a friend of Nancy Reagan. (Lauder's first son, Leonard, is president of the company.) Von Damm said the friendship had nothing to do with the possible job for Lauder's son. "She doesn't get involved in that," said von Damm. "She has never picked up the phone and said, 'How about him?' "
Von Damm praised Ronald Lauder's Republican fund-raising abilities, although in the mid-1970s it was a talent the Lauder family applied to Democratic candidates. In 1974, right after Democrat Hugh Carey had won election as governor, Lauder began raising money for him.
Lauder has been looking for a job in the Defense Department for more than a year. In the summer of 1981, New York Republican Party Chairman George Clark wrote letters to both Ronald Reagan and the Republican National Committee on Lauder's behalf. Now he's leaving his job as state finance chairman, said Clark, because of a "mutual agreement that he wanted to do something else after the election."
Although Lauder has been credited with rescuing his state GOP from financial trouble, New York Republican leaders said last week that some of this is exaggerated. "He's an extremely competent guy, from a business point of view," said one. "But there will not be any statues erected in New York for how much money Ron has raised for the state committee." In November 1981, the official said, Lauder promised to sell 300 tickets for a $1,000-per-person fund-raiser for Ronald Reagan. Instead, the official said, he sold 13.
Lauder's credentials for the possible job apparently include what the Defense Department spokesman referred to as "extensive business contacts" from Lauder's travels for Estee Lauder International. His primary responsibilities for the privately held corporation, which cosmetic industry analysts say may have an annual volume exceeding $650 million, are trouble-shooting and the formation of new business. He also speaks French, German and Flemish.