Before the country knew about “47 percent,” Wharton alum Marc Leder stayed relatively under the political radar.
Leder hosted a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser in his Boca Raton, Fla., home for Mitt Romney on May 17. It was here that a video of Romney remarking on the 47 percent of the nation who don’t pay taxes was secretly recorded and later leaked to independent news organization Mother Jones.
David Corn, editor of Mother Jones who spoke at the Kelly Writers House on Oct. 3, published the material in September.
Leder and his business partner Rodger Krouse, a 1983 Wharton graduate, met Romney when the candidate was at Bain Capital and they were at Lehman Brothers.
As co-founder and co-CEO of Sun Capital Partners — a Florida-headquartered private investment firm — Leder’s business dealings have kept him in touch with his old classmates and acquaintances.
“Governor Romney was one of the early investors in Sun Capital and I’ve gotten to know him well personally and professionally over the years,” Leder said in an email.
Sun Capital’s vice president and senior associate are also Wharton alumni.
Leder is also an investor in the Philadelphia 76ers, which is owned in part by 1986 Wharton graduate Josh Harris.
Although he graduated over 20 years ago, Leder has not left Penn behind.
“In addition to providing financial support … I try to come back and speak with students when I can because I remember how much I valued that experience,” Leder said.
The University declined to comment on his financial contributions.
Leder currently sits on the advisory board for the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, comprised of 20 other senior level professionals.
Leder cited Wharton’s business education as helping him “appreciate the complexity of the issues” in politics.
“That knowledge enabled me to … see beyond the rhetoric of political campaigns to what truly matters and will have a positive impact for our country,” he added.
Leder’s friends from his days at Penn remember him as sociable and smart.
Bruce Goodman, 1983 Wharton graduate, roomed with Leder in the high-rise apartments during their sophomore and junior years. They met on the first floor of Butcher in Ware College House freshman year.
“I don’t remember him having any political views at Penn,” Goodman said. The two lost track of each other as seniors but reconnected about four years ago in Florida.
“We had fun at Penn,” Goodman said. “Marc was — he is — a fun guy.”
“I remember at Penn, hearing about Marc Leder before I ever met him,” 1983 Wharton graduate Ari Goldberger said. “Even then he kind of had a personality.”
Goldberger recalled that, during his time pledging Zeta Beta Tau, he had a friend who frequently talked about Leder “the way you talk about a guy who’s really interesting or cool.”
He remembered Leder DJing parties when they eventually met at a ZBT party. At the time, Leder kept a mobile DJ business to help pay for school.
“I’ve got to believe that when we met, we were wearing a black shirt and the designer jeans — it was preppy then,” Goldberger said.
1983 Wharton graduate Paul Jolovitz remembered Leder only from freshman year.
“He was a very smart kid,” Jolovitz said. While he and Leder traveled in different social circles, Jolovitz said they “chatted a bunch” whenever they saw each other. The two lost track of each other after freshman year.
Today, Leder is involved in politics not only through hosting fundraisers but through donations. In this election cycle, he has donated $225,000 to Mitt Romney’s political action committee, Restore Our Future, according to The Center for Responsive Politics. In addition, he has donated $30,800 to the Republican National Committee and $5,000 to Romney himself, among other Republican candidates for office.
However, Leder has also made contributions to Democrats. He donated $2,900 to Joseph Kennedy III, who is running for Massachusetts’s fourth congressional district. Leder also gave $5,000 to Democratic candidate for Florida’s 19th district Ted Deutch and $2,500 to Democratic Minnesota senatorial candidate Amy Klobuchar.
Goodman was one of many who read the news about the 47 percent video being filmed at Leder’s fundraiser.
“He’s not looking for the limelight at all,” Goodman said of his old friend.
Goldberger, too, hoped for the best for his classmates.
“I hope [Leder and Krouse] won’t be judged by this,” Goldberger said, “because it looks like they’re doing a lot of amazing things.”