Designer Liz Lange Reveals Rise and Fall of the “Jewish Kennedys” Family
Fashion designer Liz Lange was in her Manhattan apartment in 2001 when things started to take a turn for the worse.
“There were loud banging, unfriendly banging, maybe the way it sounds when the police come to your door,” Lange told the Post. “There was a man who said he was there to take my car.”
Boarding men were generally not part of his rarefied world. Founder of Liz Lange Maternity and now CEO and chief designer of the fashion brand Figue, she was the niece of Saul Steinberg. Six years earlier, the billionaire was among the richest in the city.
His father, Bobby, was Saul’s brother. Together, the siblings crafted corporate buyouts and controlled well-known brands such as Day’s Inn and Reliance Insurance.
“I told this person there must be some mistake,” Lange said of the repo man. “I sent invoices to my father’s office and they were paid. I was shocked that there might be a bill pending. But there was.”
A new podcast, “Family just enoughRecounts the titanic rise and fall of the Steinbergs.
Host and co-creator Ariel Levy told The Post, “I said they were like the Jewish Kennedys and Liz agreed. There was that feeling of being a famous family and all eyes were on you. People revered you and resented you.
While the brothers’ business practices didn’t make them liked by the wealthy New York establishment, they didn’t care.
“There was such a feeling of superiority in my family,” Liz says in the podcast. “Whenever we met a family that was all snobbish and WASPy, my family was always, ‘Lots of lineage and no dough. “”
Saul once said to a reporter, “I will own the world. I might even be the first Jewish president. Instead, her story of Icarus crumbled into a fiery jumble of pride and flash – ending with a Sotheby’s liquidation auction.
Saul and Bobby, along with two other siblings, grew up on Long Island. Their father, Julius, owned a rubber factory that produced items as modest as dish racks. Yet it made him a millionaire – and inspired Saul. He attempted his first acquisition of another rubber company when he was in his senior year. This failed, but a hostile race in 1968 at Reliance Insurance succeeded.
Saul and Bobby established themselves as corporate looters: they bought large stakes in an undervalued company, then announced their intentions, as Bobby puts it, to “work very closely” with the organization. In some cases, board members found the men unpleasant and bought back the shares at inflated prices – such as the $ 60 million return the brothers got in return for leaving the Walt Disney Company without. to be worried. This practice has become known as greenmail, which derives from blackmail. He brought unimaginable wealth to the Steinbergs.
According to Vanity Fair, Saul used Reliance to fund his extended family, putting “relatives in leadership positions and [paying] them, and himself, huge salaries. Over the years, Reliance has paid out millions upon millions of dollars in personal loans, benefits and large dividends to members of the Steinberg family.
The family had carte blanche in the city – and a collective feeling that “nothing could touch us,” Lange says in the podcast.
Guests at the Steinberg dinners included corporate raiders Carl Icahn and Ron Perelman. Lange is surprised that friends at college thought her engagement party guest list was like “the predator’s bullet“: a notorious annual gathering – hosted by Mike’s (” Uncle Mikey “in Lange) investment bank Milken Drexel Burnham Lambert – of private equity investors and junk-bond raiders, including T. Boone Pickens and Henry Kravis.
Saul was known to flaunt his wealth: ruling over a 36-room triplex at 740 Park Avenue, previously owned by Nelson Rockefeller. Paintings by old masters covered the walls. Itzhak Perlman was playing the violin in the apartment; Robin Williams did stand-up there; George Bush ran for his re-election party. There were two dining rooms and a full-fledged gym for Saul’s daughter Laura, who once had a birthday party at Dendur Temple in the Met.
Saul’s 50th birthday party, hosted in 1989 by his third wife Gayfryd, featured human paintings of models depicting his favorite paintings. Liz Smith called it “party of the decade”. Children dressed as cherubs presented the cake.
The family traveled on their own Boeing 727 (fitted with $ 9,000 cashmere blankets) and had VIP access to sporting events.
“The first hockey game I attended, we were taken to the locker room and the goalie gave me his stick,” recalls Rayne, Saul’s stepson in the podcast. “Everything was like that. It was ridiculous. “
A call to Saul’s secretary made it possible to quickly enter Studio 54 for Liz and other Steinberg children.
“I would go to Studio 54 or Xenon and meet my dad and his friends,” Laura explains in the podcast. “[Saul] felt invincible and ready to try anything.
As for her indulgences, Liz said, “There were a lot of them: women, drugs, alcohol, business.”
It helped the Steinbergs to have a fixer, a real Ray Donovan named Don McGuire. On rare occasions when the family got on a commercial flight, McGuire waited at the airport and rushed them through security. McGuire has also been found to be useful for less tasty tasks.
“Someone was stalking [my sister] and it started to get threatening, ”Lange said. “We told Don McGuire. He had a conversation with the person and he stopped harassing my sister.
As Liz’s sister, Jane, remembers, “Don scared her and it was like, ‘Next time, I won’t be so nice.'”
But while the Steinbergs were doing it, other New Yorkers weren’t amused.
Podcast host Levy recalled a situation from the ’90s: “They were at the US Open and Liz went to get a coke. When she came back to the club … [she] had to wait for a service before returning to [her] seat. Liz rolled her eyes or something and a stranger said, “Even a Steinberg has to wait. She was shocked [that] this person knew who she was and hated her and hated her family. It was a rude awakening.
Outside of the boardroom, the brothers weren’t exactly nice guys. Bobby, the podcast reveals, had a second family in Pennsylvania. This was revealed when he divorced Liz’s mother in the 1990s and married his mistress.
As for Saul’s first wife, Barbara, now deceased: “He cheated on her, left and right,” socialite Lauren Lawrence, a friend of hers, told the Post. “He came back from a safari in Africa with syphilis and hit her for a mistake with the dry cleaner. He threw her on the marble floor and dragged her by the hair like she was a freshly bagged lion.
Their 17-year marriage dissolved in 1977. He married spirited Italian Laura Sconocchia Fisher a year later; the union was short-lived but gave birth to a child named Julian. Asked for comment, Fisher told The Post, “We had a lot of fun until we didn’t.”
She was more candid in her divorce proceedings. “My husband is a cocaine addict and he has been taking drugs on and off for two and a half years, and sometimes he gets very violent and very dangerous,” The Post said in court documents. “My husband beat me several times …”
Saul told Fortune, “Everything she said so far is a hell of a lie.” After the divorce was settled, Fisher went back on the allegations.
In the early 1980s, after breaking up with Fisher, Saul met Gayfryd – a girl from the small town of Nanaimo in British Columbia, Canada, who had risen through the social ranks through a previous marriage – at a dinner party. and married her in 83. A lover of haute couture and socially ambitious, she has been dubbed by New York magazine “the ultimate trophy woman”.
According to the podcast, Gayfryd and his son Rayne converted to Judaism at Saul’s behest. The boy’s bar mitzvah celebration took place at the Palladium where an oversized version of his bedroom was created. As stated in the podcast, “The night ended with a pillow fight over a massive replica of Rayne’s bed with gigantic bespoke sheets.”
In 1995, Saul, 55 and worth around $ 700 million, suffered a debilitating stroke and Bobby took over the company. In the podcast, he admits he lacked his brother’s flair and as a result, business stalled. Four years later, during the marriage of Saul’s son Jonathan to financial journalist Maria Bartiromo, Bobby revealed to those close to him that Reliance owed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. Over the next two years, his stock’s value dropped from $ 19 per share to less than $ 2.25. In 2001, the company was bankrupt.
The family took their setback hard. Saul and Bobby’s mother even sued her sons for non-payment of a $ 6.2 million loan she granted them. “Everything was so ugly,” Jane says in the podcast. “I can’t imagine chasing my children… [But] I don’t know where the truth of it all lies. (According to the podcast, the brothers were forced to return the money.)
Although Liz, who has two children, sold her business in 2007 for – as she widely states in the podcast, between $ 10 million and $ 100 million – the finance world of the early 2000s far surpassed family. .
Saul, strapped for cash, was forced to borrow against his art collection; he eventually sold 56 of his old masters. In 2000, he and Gayfryd auctioned off collections of Regency silverware, alabaster lamps, George II giltwood armchairs and more, a Sotheby’s deal valued at $ 14 million.
The Post reported in 2000 that Saul’s fortune had grown from nearly $ 2 billion to $ 390 million. He died in 2012. Gayfryd is now married to author Michael Shnayerson. Bobby is estranged from the woman with whom he has lived a double life. Liz, who lives in the old Gray Gardens mansion in the Hamptons, said she was “doing well” financially.
Looking back, she’s still grateful to be a Steinberg: “We’re all happy… We put things behind us. Life is short and you never know.