You might be impressed that Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, the only girl in a middle-class family of four kids from Oradell, grew up to marry Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, the patriarch of one of Europe’s wealthiest families. Or you might be impressed that she was introduced to him by mutual friend Henry Kissinger. But the 60-year-old queen bee of the jet set has much more on her résumé. When she met the knight who became her husband, she was already a multimillionaire through her work in the telecommunications industry; she and Sir Evelyn now run E.L. Rothschild, a private investment firm where Lady Lynn, who splits time among four homes on two continents, is CEO. She’s also the mother of two grown sons, and the stepmother to three of Sir Evelyn’s children. Maybe most important is her commitment to philanthropy, a topic she discussed recently with New Jersey Monthly.
New Jersey Monthly: How did growing up in Oradell help make you the person you are today?
Lady Lynn: I’m very proud of Oradell. I was born in 1954, in the house that my dad and his brother-in-law built. He still lives there. He’s 94. Oradell has everything to do with who I am today.
NJM: Do you mean it inspired you to be an entrepreneur, or that it led you to philanthropy?
LL: Everything! When I was at River Dell High School, my friend and I organized a Head Start club. We worked there once a week. Do you remember the singer Don McLean? I must have been 16 or 17, and we went to a concert to see him. I asked him if he would come and perform for us to raise money for Head Start, and he did. And who was I? I was nobody!
NJM: What fun! That must have made you popular.
LL: It was so cool. People want to do good things. And that’s the first rule of philanthropy: Don’t be afraid to ask. Nobody’s going to shoot you, and you might get a yes.
NJM: Does your entrepreneurial side have roots in Oradell?
LL: My career goal when I was growing up was to become a biblical scholar. In my house, it was all about reading the Bible. One year, when I was 16 or 17, my mom organized a Bible study trip to Israel. Somewhere I had heard that Israelis loved American jeans, so I bought 10 pairs—I probably took the money out of my mother’s wallet—and I sold them for $100 apiece. They snapped them up. I think that had something to do with my faith in business.
NJM: You’ve been quoted as saying, “I don’t think being rich is that important. I think not being boring is really important.” Does that amount to a personal philosophy?
LL: Definitely. I’m more afraid of boredom than anything.
NJM: What’s interesting to you at the moment?
LL: I’m working flat-out on something that’s important to me, to the point where I should be fired from my day job. Except I can’t be fired because I’m the boss. I know that’s a luxury [laughs].
NJM: What’s the cause?
LL: I’m working on inclusive capitalism. We’re trying to move investors and businesses to think in a more sustainable way by creating more equitable workplaces and business environments. There’s a website you can go to: inc-cap.com.
NJM: Inclusive capitalism is a global movement. Why does it matter so much to you?
LL: In a nutshell, growing up in Oradell, I believed in the American dream. This country let me live beyond anything I could have imagined. But now, girls like me growing up in places like the one where I grew up don’t have the same level of optimism in the future. I really want to restore their optimism and confidence in what they can achieve in this country.
NJM: What advice do you have for New Jerseyans who want to follow in your philanthropic footsteps?
LL: Don’t ever think that anything you do is too small. Also, always believe that you gain so much more than you give when it comes to philanthropy, whether you’re giving time or money. Another important thing is that you don’t have to have a lot of money to be a philanthropist. Every little thing counts.