10 Interesting Facts About Courtney Sarofim
You Never Knew!
Even before her marriage into the billionaire Sarofim family, Courtney Sarofim was an influential member of Houston society. What do you really know about Courtney Lanier Sarofim?
Her family background, education, career, and community service have already led her to have an impact in Houston and beyond. Find out 10 things you didn't know about Courtney Sarofim. You may be inspired to make an impact yourself.
1. Daughter of Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier
Courtney Lanier Sarofim is the step-daughter of former Houston mayor Bob Lanier (1925–2014). Lanier had a big impact on the city of Houston, and his legacy continues there.
Lanier served three terms as mayor from 1992 to 1998. Houstonians called him Mayor Bob.
Lanier, a Democrat, ran on a platform of crime reduction. Lanier increased the number of police officers from 3,900 to more than 5,000. The number of major crimes reduced by 40,000 per year.
Lanier also transformed parts of the city that had become run down. He created tax-increment reinvestment zones, and neighborhoods that were suffering from blight became some of the most popular and expensive areas of modern Houston.
He campaigned for community diversity. He fought successfully to maintain an affirmative action program in Houston that aimed to increase business and employment opportunities for women and minorities.
In 2019, state and local officials named part of the Grand Parkway freeway the Mayor Bob Lanier Memorial Parkway. Lanier helped start development of the Grand Parkway, which is Houston's third freeway ring.
2. Married into the Billionaire Sarofim Family
Courtney married Christopher Sarofim, the oldest son of billionaire Fayez Sarofim. Christopher is deputy chairman of Fayez Sarofim & Co., president of Sarofim International Management Company, and a director of the Sarofim Group. He has been involved in his father's investment firm since 1988.
Courtney was a close friend of Christopher's first wife. Courtney and Christopher were accused of having an affair, and Christopher got divorced in 2000.
Courtney and Christopher have three children: Louisa, Fayez, and Gillian, who is Christopher's daughter from his first marriage.
3. Alumna of Columbia University and the University of Houston
Courtney Sarofim graduated from Columbia University in New York City in 1992. She earned a BA in Political Science and History cum laude. Cum laude is one of three Latin honors that universities can give. Columbia bases it on a student's cumulative GPA.
Columbia University is one of the oldest in the US. It's a private, Ivy League institution. Major education publications consistently rank Columbia among the most prestigious universities worldwide.
The political science program at Columbia was the first in the US.
A year after finishing her undergraduate degree, Sarofim returned to Houston. She went to law school like her father. She enrolled at the University of Houston and graduated with a doctorate in law (JD) in 1996.
The University of Houston Law Center is among the top 30 law schools in the US with the highest placement of recent graduates into associate jobs in the largest 100 law firms. US News ranks it 56th of 194 law schools in the country.
4. From Financial Analyst to Investment Partner
When Courtney Sarofim finished her BA, she worked for a year as a financial analyst for Salomon Smith Barney in New York City. Salomon Smith Barney was one of the largest investment banks on Wall Street before it merged with Citigroup in 2003.
After law school, Sarofim spent almost two years as an associate for the Fulbright & Jaworski law firm. The firm has been in existence since 1919. Among other notable cases, firm lawyers led the Watergate investigation and prosecution of President Richard Nixon. Fulbright & Jaworski has a national reputation for quality litigation.
In 1998 Sarofim moved into a position as vice president for acquisitions at her father's real estate development company, Landar Holdings.
When Lanier became mayor, he established a blind trust to oversee his real estate holdings. These types of arrangements are supposed to prevent potential conflicts of interest. Sarofim stayed at Landar until 2006.
Since 2013, Sarofim is a partner at Sima Capital with her husband and John Curtin. Sima Capital identifies and funds investment opportunities in buyout and venture funds, start-up and early stage technology companies, oil and gas, and real estate.
5. Active Political Donor
Courtney Sarofim is an active political donor. Her father was a Democrat, but she supports Republican candidates and groups.
She donated to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012, and she supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential primary. She has also contributed to the campaigns of senators and congressmen.
Recent contributions include a donation to the campaign committee of Pierce Bush, who was running for congress in 2020. Pierce Bush is a grandson of late former President George H.W. Bush.
6. Two-Time Houston Best Dressed Honoree
The Best Dressed Luncheon in Houston honors 10 women each year for their style and their philanthropy. Courtney Sarofim was a two-time Best Dressed honoree.
The Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon and Neiman Marcus Fashion Presentation started in 1982. The luncheon is a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, an organization that promotes the health of children and mothers.
In a 2005 interview, Sarofim said that she loves to look good, but everything has to fit with her lifestyle. She prefers looks that are simple but fun.
7. Invested in Fashion Designer Adam Lippes
With her interest in fashion, it's not a surprise that Courtney Sarofim became a chief investor of fashion designer Adam Lippes in 2019. Sarofim first discovered Lippes when she hosted a trunk show at her home in Houston. She describes his clothes as easy to wear but luxurious.
The Sarofim family doesn't usually invest in fashion. Sarofim says that Lippes's personality and vision combined with the quality and design of his clothes convinced her and her partners to invest.
Lippes launched his brand in 2013. Despite difficult market conditions, the business should be worth $20 million in 2020.
8. Dedicated Supporter of Education
One focus of Courtney Sarofim's community service is education in Houston and beyond. She served as a trustee for St. John's School, a private K–12 school in Houston. Her husband is an alumnus, and he currently serves on the board.
Courtney is a member of the Board of Governors for Lyford Cay International School in the Bahamas. The school provides a quality education for Bahamian and international students. Courtney and Christopher are donors to the Lyford Cay Foundation, which provides scholarships for children to attend the school.
Courtney also serves on the Board of Trustees for KIPP Texas. KIPP is a group of public charter schools in Texas that serves primarily economically disadvantaged students. They have primary, middle, and high schools in several cities, including Houston.
9. Passionate About Houston Arts and Culture
Courtney Sarofim actively supports arts and culture in Houston. She has served on the Board of Trustees for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts since 2001. She is also chairperson of the Development Committee.
She was involved in the capital campaign in 2015 to raise $450 million for a significant redevelopment and expansion of the museum. The redevelopment is scheduled for completion in November 2020.
Her father-in-law, Fayez Sarofim, contributed $70 million to the project. The whole museum campus is now called the Fayez S. Sarofim Campus.
Courtney has served on the boards of other organizations including Houston Ballet, where her father-in-law is also a major donor.
She helped the Houston Zoo raise money for a new African Forest exhibit when she was a board member. Her daughter loved going to the zoo at the time, so Sarofim was especially enthusiastic about becoming a board member.
10. Philanthropic Duo Christopher and Courtney Sarofim
Courtney and Christopher Sarofim are involved in community service together. They were honored as Community Champions in 2017. The Texas Children's Cancer Center puts on a yearly "Celebration of Champions" luncheon and fashion show. The event raises money for the long-term survivor program at the hospital.
The Lymphoma Center at Texas Children's Cancer Center is named after Fayez Sarofim.
Courtney and Christopher contribute to other groups including the Texan French Alliance for the Arts and the Houston Cinema Society.
Now You Know!
Courtney Sarofim doesn't widely publicize her accomplishments and activities. However, she is an influential member of Houston society through her career, community service, and family.
Most of her civic involvement focuses on Houston, but she has a global reach. Her political donations and investment support fund a range of people and institutions. The Lanier and Sarofim families have been important members of Houston society for decades. Courtney Lanier Sarofim is continuing this legacy.