Alexandra Lebenthal: Finance Meets Philanthropy

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Alexandra Lebenthal

 “It’s all on me. The drive to succeed and the fear of failure are with me every single day.”

Alexandra Lebenthal, President and CEO of Lebenthal & Co. and its multi-family office Alexandra & James, has defied the norm with both her age and gender, and proved that Wall Street isn’t just a boys’ club. “My grandmother co-founded our firm in 1925 and worked until she was 93 years old,” the 49-year-old municipal mogul tells Haute Living. “I had a real opportunity to know her and just saw her being undaunted as a woman.”

After joining the family business in 1988, Lebenthal was named President and CEO in 1995 at the impressive age of 31. “My dad never thought twice about putting me front and center in the company,” she explains. “Being that I was put in a prominent position at a young age, I felt like I had sort of an obligation to be outspoken for women.”

In 2005, financial powerhouse Merrill Lynch bought the family firm for $400 million, but Lebenthal wasn’t quite ready to hang up her hat. A lifelong risk taker and go-getter, she decided to venture back into the business world and start the company anew in 2006. “I just didn’t like the way the book ended,” she admits. “I felt like I had my grandparents’ entrepreneurial genes inside me so that was really it.”

Only two years later, Lebenthal faced her biggest personal and professional obstacle to date—the stock market crash of 2008. “During those days when the market was down 500 points, it truly felt like the world was about to come to an end,” she recalls. “Were people going to go to the ATM and take out everything they had and put it under their mattress? It was really, really scary.”

While Lebenthal juggled a new company and an unpredictable fiscal future, she safeguarded the jobs and stability of her twenty employees, even paying them from her own pocket at times. “I’m very much an entrepreneur now, which has great moments and has moments where, you know, it’s really terrifying,” she reveals. “It’s all on me. The drive to succeed and the fear of failure are with me every single day.”

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Though business may be Lebenthal’s first natural instinct, philanthropy follows as a close second. Community involvement lies at the heart of our woman of substance, who actively gives back to charities and organizations, including Hale House Center, The Women’s Executive Circle, The Fashion Institute of Technology, The New York Botanical Garden, and especially, The Alzheimer’s Association. “My mother had Alzheimer’s for 10 years and ultimately passed away from it, so it’s a disease that really affected me very, very deeply,” she asserts. “I want to do whatever I can to try to help find a cure.” Lebenthal also works closely with Hale House Center, a Harlem-based charity that champions a nurturing and educational environment to empower children and families. “I was drawn to it because it was a charity where I was really able to be hands-on involved and really feel like every dollar that I gave was directly affecting someone,” she adds.

As President of The Couture Council of FIT and supporter of The New York Botanical Garden, Lebenthal advocates for local landmarks and fundraising efforts. “FIT has been a great thing to be involved with because The Couture Council has raised a lot of money for the museum and school. The lunch that we have every year has become one of these tremendously successful events so it’s just been really rewarding to be a part of it,” she explains. But there’s one extra-curricular that Lebenthal won’t openly talk about: her involvement with Wall Street’s secret society, Kappa Beta Phi. “I’m somebody that keeps a secret,” she says with a laugh. “Other people talk about it, but I really can’t.”

When Lebenthal isn’t running her business empire or running around for her many charities, the wife and mother of three loves to dine at El Paso Taquería, a hidden Mexican eatery in uptown Manhattan, or go out for a glamorous night on the town. “With the stress of my day job, I love nothing more than to go home, have make-up done, put on a long dress and jewelry, and go out to feel like a fairy princess.”

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