The makers of OxyContin just tentatively settled 2,000 lawsuits on their role in the opioid crisis. Meet the Sacklers, who built their $13 billion fortune off the controversial prescription drug.

The makers of OxyContin just tentatively settled 2,000 lawsuits on their role in the opioid crisis. Meet the Sacklers, who built their $13 billion fortune off the controversial prescription drug.
The Sacklers are worth an estimated $13 billion.


The Sacklers are one of the wealthiest families in the US, with an estimated fortune of $13 billion, but they may not be for much longer.

The owners of Purdue Pharma — including members of the Sackler family — have reached a tentative settlement agreement in thousands of lawsuits over what accusers say is misleading marketing of OxyContin that’s been partly responsible for the US opioid crisis, the New York Times reported September 11. The settlement requires the Sacklers to pay $3 billion of their own fortune in cash over the next seven years.

“Purdue Pharma continues to work with all plaintiffs on reaching a comprehensive resolution to its opioid litigation that will deliver billions of dollars and vital opioid overdose rescue medicines to communities across the country impacted by the opioid crisis,” the company said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

The source of the family’s wealth is OxyContin, the controversial prescription painkiller that many say has fueled the US opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma has faced thousands of lawsuits over what accusers say is misleading marketing of OxyContin that contributed to opioid-related deaths.

The Sacklers are far from a tight-knit family. The - described them in 2018 as “ a sprawling and now feuding transatlantic dynasty.” According to a 2017 article from The New Yorker, there are 15 Sackler children in the generation following the founders of Purdue.

While some Sacklers serve as board members of Purdue Pharma, others, notably those descended from eldest brother Arthur M. Sackler, who died before OxyContin was invented, have distanced themselves from the company and condemned the OxyContin-based wealth, according to The -.

Here’s a look at the secretive and controversial family.

The Sackler family is one of the richest families in the US.

Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.

AP Photo

The vast majority of the Sackler fortune comes from a well-known prescription painkiller that Purdue Pharma launched in 1996, OxyContin.


OxyContin is seen as partly to blame for the opioid crisis sweeping the US.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

More than 130 people in the US die each day after overdosing on opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in July indicated that overdose deaths actually dropped 5% from 2017 to 2018, the first year-to-year decline since 1990.

Purdue Pharma, which generates $3 billion in annual sales, has faced hundreds of lawsuits over what accusers say is misleading marketing about the risks of addiction when taking OxyContin.

Friends and family of opioid overdose victims outside the Suffolk County Superior Court on August 2, 2019, while a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma was underway inside.

Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

On August 27, NBC News reported that Purdue Pharma was offering to settle the more than 2,000 lawsuits against the pharmaceutical company for between $10 billion and $12 billion.

George Frey/Reuters

The proposed settlement would entail Purdue declaring bankruptcy, according to NBC News. The Sackler family would give up ownership and turn it into a for-profit “public benefit trust” that would provide $4 billion in drugs — some of which are used to save people from overdoses — to cities, counties, and states.

The deal would include $3 billion in cash from the Sackler family itself, Bloomberg reported.

Purdue Pharma continues to deny any wrongdoing. In a statement to Business Insider, the company said: “While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals.”

The company added that while “the people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now,” Purdue Pharma “believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome.”

The company declined to comment on any details of the proposed settlement to Business Insider.

The pharmaceutical empire began when brothers Mortimer and Raymond Sackler took over a small pharmaceutical company in New York City’s Greenwich Village called Purdue Frederick as cochairmen.

Greenwich Village in the 1950s.

AP Photo

Arthur, the oldest Sackler brother, worked in pharmaceutical marketing and became one of the world’s leading collectors of Asian art.

The entrance of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC.

Getty Images

Arthur’s four children, Elizabeth Sackler, Carol Master, Arthur Felix Sackler, and Denise Marica, have said they have not made any money from OxyContin.

Elizabeth Sackler.

Getty Images

Elizabeth, a board member of the Brooklyn Museum, where she endowed the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, has called the OxyContin-based wealth of her family members “morally abhorrent.”

A 2018 investigation by The Atlantic found a court document that showed a nearly $20 million payment to Arthur M. Sackler’s estate in 1997 from the Purdue family of companies, suggesting his descendants did benefit in some way from OxyContin.

In an email to Business Insider, Janet Wootten, a spokeswoman for Jillian Sackler, widow of Arthur M. Sackler, denied that Jillian, Arthur, or their heirs have fibioreportscially profited from the sale of OxyContin.

Mortimer Sackler, the middle son and one of Purdue Pharma’s chief executives, died in 2010 at age 93. He left behind his third wife, Theresa Sackler, and seven children, three of whom are board members of Purdue Pharma, according to The -.

Purdue Pharma co-founder Mortimer Sackler’s third wife, Theresa Sackler.

Philip Toscano/PA Images via Getty Images

Theresa is heavily involved in philanthropic work. In 2011, she received the Prince of Wales Medal for Art Philanthropy.

One of those board members is his son, also named Mortimer.

Mortimer Sackler., Jr. and his wife, Jacqueline Sackler.

Getty Images

The other two are daughters Kathe Sackler, who is also the founder and president of the Acorn Foundation for the Arts & Sciences, and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, director of the Sackler Lefcourt Center for Child Development.

Mortimer Sr.’s other four children — Samantha Sophia, Michael, Marissa, and Sophie — are apparently not involved in the company.

Marissa Sackler in New York City in 2011.

Getty Images

Raymond Sackler, Purdue Pharma’s other former chief executive, died in 2017 at age 97. He had two children: Jonathan and Richard.

Douglas Healey/AP

Richard Sackler reportedly lives in a six-bedroom home in Austin, Texas.


His son, David Sackler, paid cash for a $22.5 million home in Los Angeles in 2018, according to Curbed.

Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

David is married to Joss Sackler, the founder of a private social club and clothing company for women.

Joss Sackler, left, at the New York City Ballet’s 2017 Fall Fashion Gala in September 2017.

Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Raymond’s granddaughter, Madeleine Sackler, is an award-winning filmmaker.

Madeleine Sackler.

Monica Schipper/Getty Images

In response to criticism related to her family background, she said she had “never worked at the company or had any influence in it.”

But the family is well-known for their philanthropic endeavors, with their names visibly emblazoned on hospital wings and museum galleries.

Shutterstock/Alexander Prokopenko

There’s a Sackler Center at the Guggenheim in New York City, as well as a Sackler Educational Lab at the American Museum of Natural History.

Jacqueline Sackler and Mortimer Sackler at The 3rd Annual Guggenheim Artist Ball at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2005.

Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

There’s even a type of rose named after a Sackler.

Getty Images

The owners of Purdue Pharma — including members of the Sackler family — reached a tentative settlement agreement, the bioreports reported on September 11.

In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma.

Jessica Hill, File/AP Photo

The settlement requires the Sacklers to pay $3 billion of their own fortune in cash over the next seven years, The Times reported.

Purdue Pharma will likely file for bankruptcy and be split into separate companies, according to The Times.


Arts & Culture
Richest Families

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