On the morning of July 5, 1975, a deeply concerned Robert Mortimer Sackler somehow made his way from his apartment on East 64th Street to his mother’s house on East 86th Street.
Bobby like him Family, had just turned 24 and was one of the heirs to the Sackler drug empire, a private, family-run company that was on its way to becoming a multi-billion dollar company focused on developing and commercializing powerful pain relievers. His father, Mortimer, a Brooklyn doctor, had bought the small Manhattan company in 1952 that was known for its laxatives and wax removers. Mortimer’s younger brother Raymond and his eldest brother Arthur were also involved in what would become known as the drug giant Purdue Pharma.
Bobby grew up with older sisters Kathe and Ilene in a sprawling house in Great Neck, Long Island, but moved to the Upper East Side with his mother when he was 15 and his parents were divorced. But long before his wife split, Mortimer was already establishing a pattern as an absent father, spending much of his time poolside in southern France playing tennis and sipping cocktails. He had started an affair with a much younger woman while his wife Muriel was raising their children on Long Island.
By the time he was in his early 20s, Bobby was already in and out of mental health facilities and was a full-blown drug addict who According to « Empire of Pain » daily used heroin and PCP or « Angel Dust »: The Secret Story of the Sackler Dynasty « by Patrick Radden Keefe.
» He was a little cuckoo, « said Ceferino Perez, a long-time porter in the post-war building with white gloves on 11 East 86th Street, where Muriel lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the ninth floor. « He was the guy nobody would hire. »
Unemployed, Bobby lived alone with his pet cats in a bedroom on East 64th Street in his father’s luxury building. When he was out and about in rehab facilities, according to Radden Keefe, a housekeeper Muriel employed for three decades looked after his cats. « He was crazy, » said a family friend, describing how Bobby had once been found naked in Central Park. “Completely out of control.”
When he arrived in the lobby of his mother’s building that damp Saturday morning, Bobby was fighting with the elevator operator, according to Radden Keefe. He stormed into his mother’s apartment, where he was heard arguing and demanding money. Moments later he broke a window and fell to his death.
Bobby Sackler’s tragic story has been buried for more than 40 years. There are no newspaper reports of his suicide and no public photos of the young heir. His drug addiction life was an uncomfortable truth and a great embarrassment for a family that sold drugs. The Sacklers forged an empire built on addictive pain relievers and wanted to be known around the world for their generous philanthropy to the arts and universities, writes Radden Keefe, who managed to track down some of the witnesses to the 1975 suicide Bobby’s story first appeared in his book, which will be published April 13th.
The Sacklers came under fire two years ago for their role in the opioid crisis that killed more than 450,000 people in the US alone . Purdue Pharma began marketing the strong pain reliever OxyContin in 1996 and, according to court records, misled the public about the dangers of the highly addictive narcotic. Last year, the company pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the commercialization of OxyContin, and the family agreed to pay fines of $ 225 million. Purdue Pharma faced fines of $ 8.3 billion to resolve some of the myriad lawsuits against them, although they are unlikely to come anywhere near that as the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
Since the OxyContin Scourge was unveiled, museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Louvre in Paris, the Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery in London, have distanced themselves from the Sackler dynasty, its philanthropy and position High society was carefully sculpted in the 1950s and 1960s as Bobby struggled with his troubles.
Yet the three Brooklyn-born brothers who started the Sackler empire were in the perfect position to help Bobby when he was in the middle of his illness.
Even as children, the brothers were encouraged to become doctors by their father Isaac Sackler, a Jewish grocer with a migrant background n. Arthur Sackler was a leader, graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and funding his studies at New York University by working for a drug marketing company that helped introduce sedatives like Librium and Valium. Arthur encouraged his younger brothers Mortimer and Raymond to follow in his footsteps and attend medical school, and even took them to the infamous Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, a mental health facility, where he began training in psychiatry in 1944. The hospital has been described as a « six thousand bed prison » where patients were regularly subjected to brutal electroshocks and lobotomies.
« Among them, the brothers performed the [electroshock] procedure thousands of times, an experience they consider demoralizing felt « , writes Radden Keefe. The brothers decided to work on alternative methods to help patients and, after experimenting with electroshock therapy on a rabbit, found that they could help bipolar and schizophrenic patients by giving them doses of histamine. The drug treatments were so successful that Creedmoor’s doctors moved away from the more invasive procedures of the past.
Under the leadership of Arthur, who had gotten rich through drug marketing and running scientific journals, the brothers took over in the early 1950s Years the tiny Purdue Frederick. In 1983, the Sacklers moved what is now Purdue Pharma, an arthritis drug company, to Norwalk, Connecticut. It expanded again and in 2001 relocated its headquarters to Stamford.
When the three brothers amassed their fortunes, they devoted themselves entirely to their philanthropy. Arthur, who had already started collecting art at New York University, was instrumental in ensuring that the Metropolitan Museum received the Temple of Dendur from Egypt in 1967 by offering, together with his brothers, the construction of a special wing of the museum for $ 3.5 million to finance house of around 15v sandstone structures. Arthur had developed a close relationship with the directors of Met over the years and even managed to secure a private « enclave » in the museum where he kept some of his extensive collections of Chinese antiquities.
The plans for the construction The Sackler Wing at the Met would begin around the same time Mortimer turned 50 and started his « new life, » which coincided with the downward spiral of his firstborn son, who lived primarily with his mother in New York City, though he sometimes went to France to go on vacation with his father.
« The Côte d’Azur this year is not so bullied, » Mortimer wrote to a friend in the summer of 1966, a new crop of bikini girls and the remnants of the last To harvest. “
The new harvest included Gertraud“ Geri ”Wimmer, a“ statue-like ”Austrian who was 20 years old and the same age as his eldest daughter Ilene. After his divorce from Muriel, Mortimer married Wimmer in 1969. He renounced his US citizenship for tax reasons. The couple lived between houses in Paris, New York, the Swiss Alps and a spacious villa by the sea in Cap d’Antibes. The couple had two children – Samantha and Mortimer David – before divorcing a decade later. In 1980, Mortimer married his third wife, Theresa Rowling, an English Catholic school teacher who was 31 years old. Mortimer was 64 years old at the time, but had three more children – Marissa, Sophie and Michael – with Theresa. Both Mortimer and Theresa were later recognized by the Queen for their philanthropy in England.
Mortimer died in 2010 after earning billions on OxyContin, but long before the onslaught of lawsuits and investigations that had the Sacklers’ reputation would be left in ruins all over the world. In the end, it was his widow Theresa and daughters Kathe and Ilene, as well as five other members of the Sackler clan, who served on Purdue Pharma’s board of directors and were forced to reckon with the company’s decision to commercialize a drug they knew about that it is very addicting. Kathe was a doctor herself, although she never practiced medicine. According to internal family emails contained in court files, Kathe, now 72, has acknowledged the family’s decision to introduce OxyContin.
Kathe and Ilene likely understood the dangers of addiction better than any surviving member of the Sackler clan after the terrible death of their brother Bobby.
During a 2019 dump in a boardroom in New York City, Kathe seemed to be remembering the distant day in July 1975 when she made a casual comment about the 1970s heroin crisis: « I have friends. I mean relatives. I know people, individual people, who have suffered. It touches everyone’s life. It’s terrible. «
» Then a much louder, closer sound when something heavy landed on the sidewalk. The impact was so violent that it sounded like a car accident, « writes Radden Keefe. » But over as Perez saw, he saw that there was a body on the sidewalk. It was Bobby Sackler. He had fallen nine floors. His head had jumped on the sidewalk. «
A distraught Muriel Sackler called the front desk. » Mine Son jumped out the window, « she said. » He broke the window with a chair. Do you think he’s dead? «
Mortimer’s New York family were upset by Bobby’s death. But her grief seemed to quickly turn to embarrassment.
The tiny funeral announcement in the New York Times on July 9th only stated that he had died « suddenly at the age of 24 ». A service was held at Riverside Chapel to suggest donations for a performing arts space on 11th Street in Manhattan.
While Mortimer was reportedly broken over his son’s death, he did almost nothing to preserve his memory. The family eventually founded the Robert Sackler Scholarship at Tel Aviv University. « With this foundation, however, there was no explanation for who Robert Sackler had been in life, » writes Radden Keefe. “It was a strange paradox: the Sackler family had made a name for themselves everywhere. But when a family member died young, they did not remember him in any public way. “
The Sackler brothers, who once took pride in their pioneering health care for psychiatric patients like Bobby, simply dropped one of their own from history.
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