Leonard Stern 101: Billionaire Philanthropy Icon
Zatrun Published at July 05, 2024

In the world of business and philanthropy, Leonard Stern has left an indelible mark. Born on March 28, 1938, he is not only an American billionaire businessman but also a passionate philanthropist dedicated to making a positive impact on society. has delved into the extraordinary life and career of Leonard Stern, shedding light on his remarkable journey.

Leonard Stern: Early Life and Education

Leonard Stern’s journey to success began with his early life and education. He was born into a Jewish family, with parents Hilda and Max Stern. Max Stern, a German immigrant, played a pivotal role in the family’s journey. After relocating to the U.S. in the 1920s, Max Stern ventured into the pet supply business, bringing with him 2,100 canaries from Germany.

These canaries, along with other pet bird supplies, were sold through Woolworth’s stores, ultimately building the foundation of Hartz Mountain Corporation (HMC), headquartered in Secaucus, NJ. The name “Hartz” was inspired by the Harz Mountains of Germany, despite the canaries’ origins in the Canary Islands. Leonard Stern’s academic journey led him to graduate from New York University (NYU) in 1957.

Business Empire

Stern’s initial steps into the world of business were guided by his father’s legacy. Inheriting his father’s wealth, he acquired his siblings’ shares in Hartz Mountain, solidifying his position as the driving force behind Hartz Mountain Corporation.

By the early 1960s, Leonard Stern had established complete control over Hartz Mountain Corporation, which began dominating the pet supply market, catering to various pet owners, from dogs and cats to parakeets and canaries.

By 1984, the company had secured a commanding 75% to 90% share of the U.S. pet supply market, amassing an estimated value of $400 million with annual profits of $40 million. Leonard Stern’s influence extended beyond the pet industry when he ventured into media, acquiring The Village Voice, an alternative New York City weekly newspaper, in the mid-1980s.

Challenges and Controversies

Leonard Stern’s journey was not without its share of challenges and controversies. Stern served as a board member of Rite Aid during the ’90s, a period marred by the drugstore chain’s admission of overstating net income by $1 billion over two years. This admission led to several class-action lawsuits, with investors claiming breaches of fiduciary duty by Stern and other directors.

Additionally, a lawsuit filed by Kevin Mann, the son of the original founder of Hartz Mountain Corporation, alleged that Stern used his influence to expand shelf space for Hartz’s pet products in Rite Aid stores, disadvantaging competitors. In 1999, Rite Aid settled the suit for $11 million, leading to Leonard Stern’s resignation from the board in 2001.

Philanthropy and Cultural Contributions

Leonard Stern’s philanthropic efforts are exemplified by his role as the founder and chairman of Homes for the Homeless, an organization established in 1986. Homes for the Homeless focuses on providing support to homeless families and children across New York City.

Operating across five different sites, the organization serves over 630 homeless families and more than 1,200 homeless children daily. Stern’s commitment to philanthropy extends to the world of art and culture, as evident in his collection of Cycladic antiquities in the 1980s.

Today, these antiquities are under the custodianship of the Hellenic Ancient Culture Institute, with some objects on display at prestigious institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens.

Personal Life and Family

In his personal life, Leonard Stern has experienced the joys of family and love. He has been married twice, with his first marriage to Judith Stern Peck, a family therapist, and family business consultant. They had three children: Emanuel T. Stern, Edward J. Stern, and Andrea C. Stern. His second marriage was to Allison Maher, a former model and TV producer. Allison is a trustee and vice-chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the parent organization of the Bronx Zoo.

Forbes has consistently recognized Leonard Stern’s financial achievements. In October 2018, he was listed with a net worth of $4.8 billion, ranking him as the 143rd richest person in the United States. Notably, in September 2023, Forbes listed his net worth at $8.1 billion, positioning him as the 275th richest person in the world. Furthermore, New York University’s business school bears his name, acknowledging his immense contributions to business and society.

Leonard Stern’s life and career epitomize the journey of a visionary businessman and philanthropist. His impact extends far beyond the business world, reaching the lives of countless homeless families and children. Despite the challenges he faced, Stern’s dedication to philanthropy and the preservation of cultural heritage has left an enduring legacy.

His commitment to family and his substantial wealth reinforce his status as a prominent figure in American society. Leonard Stern’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of determination, innovation, and philanthropy.

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