Sondland, Donald Trump’s ambassador to the EU, is a self-made, free-market advocating hotelier whose family escaped Nazi Germany. He’s found himself plunged into controversy as a result of the president’s phone call to the Ukrainian president. His wife sometimes goes by the name Katy Durant.
Sondland’s fortune was developed in large part through the hotel industry on the west coast, especially in Portland, Oregon. According to The Washington Post, Durant has lashed out as her husband’s critics, saying, as the newspaper put it, that “only those motivated by self-interest were speaking.” The Post reported that Durant stayed in Portland most of the time while her husband was abroad as ambassador and is worried that there will be an “economic backlash” against his hotel business.
In 2018, in his statement after being nominated as ambassador, Sondland said of his wife, “She’s a formidable success in business, as well as in our home, and she’s been an enduring source of strength – and humbling, smart advice – since the day I was fortunate to meet her nearly 30 years ago.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sondland & His Wife Katherine Durant Run a Charitable Foundation Together
Gordon Sondland and his wife run the Sondland Durant Foundation. Its website says “The Gordon D. Sondland and Katherine J. Durant Foundation was founded in 1999 by Gordon Sondland & Katherine Durant. The organizations supported by the Foundation include the Portland Art Museum, OMSI, OHSU, New Avenues for Youth, Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Portland Parks Foundation.”
The foundation’s mission is described as “Helping Families & Boosting Communities.” According to Willamette Week, the foundation has given money so children can get into the Portland Art Museum for free and to save Portland summer concerts. They also help the homeless.
The foundation’s news page also showcases several events involving George W. Bush and Sondland Durant. For example, a 2012 article declared, “Sondland-Durant Facilitates Auction for Ford F-150 Owned By President George W. Bush At Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale.” The goal was to raise money for vets.
The foundation website lists these boards for Durant: Pratt School of Engineering Board of Visitors at Duke University; Portland Art Museum Board of Directors and Executive Committee, Chair of the Investment Committee; Jesuit High School Board of Trustees; Elevate Oregon Board of Directors.
2. Durant Has an MBA & the Sondlands Are Worth Approximately $60 Million
Sondland’s wife, who is also called Katy, “holds a Bachelor of Science in Business form Pepperdine University as well as an MBA in Finance from Willamette University,” according to the foundation’s website.
His wife said in a video introducing Sondland as the ambassador that she specializes in retail real estate. She’s the managing partner of an investment firm. She also said she loves to run, hike, and be outdoors.
The Sondlands are very wealthy. Gordon Sondland’s wealth is estimated at around $60 million.
3. Gordon Sondland & His Wife Have Two Children
Max and Lucy Sondland, the couple’s children, are also listed on the foundation’s website. They are both college students. Willamette Week reports that Max attends Duke University; his parents gave the college $2.5 million.
A video biography introducing Sondland by the U.S. Mission to the EU shows the new ambassador sitting in his home with his wife, making coffee, and sitting next to his dog. He said he had been married for 25 years to Katy Durant and introduced his two children.
“My family is the most important thing to me,” said Sondland. He said he was born and raised in Seattle, but he was the “first in my family who were born in the U.S.”
The video shows Sondland in the pilot’s seat of a plane. “One of my most favorite hobbies is flying,” he says in it. He said he enjoyed flying jet aircraft, and he’s been a pilot since age 15.
Sondland’s website lists him as serving on the following boards: Sanford School Board of Visitors at Duke University; Oregon Health & Science University Foundation; U.S. Bancorp Washington State Advisory Board; National Finance Co-Chairman; George W. Bush Center.
4. Sondland Once Gifted His Wife With a Book of Ayn Rand’s Famous Book, ‘Atlas Shrugged’ But She’s a Registered Democrat
Sondland is so pro free market that, according to Vice, he once gave his wife a first-edition copy of Ayn Rand’s seminal book Atlas Shrugged. However, Willamette Week wrote that Katherine “is a real estate investor and a registered Democrat. They live in a $2.5 million West Hills home, where the couple has regularly hosted political fundraisers.”
However, Durant is also a fan of the book, Willamette Week reported, even naming a company Atlas Investments and a building “The Galt.”
She served under three Democratic governors on the Oregon Investment Council, Willamette Week reported.
Both described to Oregon Business how they met. “I flew to Portland to look at a building Katy was marketing. My friend and mentor Howard S. Wright counseled me against the investment but advised me to ‘keep in touch with that broker; she is really pretty and smart,'” Sondland said.
Katy added, “He really wasn’t my type. I was focused on showing him and Mr. Wright the building I hoped they would buy. I was not successful in that endeavor, but I sold it to someone else. Today we say it was the best deal we’ve ever done that didn’t go through.” She told the site she insisted on keeping her name and staying in Portland.
Sondland and his wife have had issues with Trump. According to Oregon Live, after initially supporting Trump during his run for president once Trump was the Republican nominee, they broke with him when he criticized Gold Star Father Khizr Khan. “Trump’s constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels,” their spokesperson said, according to Oregon Live.
Politico labeled Sondland a “long-time establishment Republican.” On his website, Sondland describes himself as a “Portland businessman and philanthropist.” He has ties to the Bush family, serving as national finance co-chairman for the George W. Bush Center and on a leadership team for Jeb Bush’s failed presidential run.
Sondland is the child of immigrant parents who fled Nazi Germany, according to Politico. Oregon Live reported that Sondland’s parents left Gdansk, now Poland, and his father fought the Nazis in the French Foreign Legion and British Army. The family eventually settled in Uruguay and then Seattle, Washington.
5. Sondland & His Wife Have Amassed a Multi-Million Dollar Art Collection & She Once Said She Believes ‘in Simple’
“I’m also a lover of art. Katy and I have assembled a wonderful collection. We’ve been fortunate even to loan a couple of paintings to the White House,” Sondland said in the video biography, which shows off a couple of the family’s paintings. According to Mother Jones, Sondland’s art collection is worth about $25 million.
To Oregon Business, Katy said, “I love fixing/cleaning up things. I believe in simple. Real estate is pretty simple, but at times people can make it complicated.”
Sondland spoke about Trump to a Politico podcast in which he also advocated for the free market. “He’s a hell of a lot of fun,” Sondland said, of Trump, indicating that he thinks Europeans have been too hard on the president. “I think they would enjoy his company.”
Politico described Sondland as a “self-made, multimillionaire hotel magnate from the Pacific Northwest.” His company, Politico reports, is called Provenance Hotels, and it’s known for “refurbishing and reimagining old, historic buildings. Sondland “owns stakes” in for hotels located in downtown Portland: the Lucia, deLuxe, Sentinel and Westin,” according to Willamette Week.
Some of Sondland’s properties are the Healthman Hotel, Sentinel Hotel and Hotel Preston, according to Politico. His LinkedIn page says he attended the University of Washington from 1975 to 1978.
According to Oregon Live, he’s also affiliated with Aspen Capital, described by the newspaper as “a Portland-based hard-money lender.” Vice reports that Gordon Sondland is a long-time GOP donor whose governmental experience was largely working on an Oregon board to “bring television and movie production to the state.”
Sondland was initially a supporter of Trump foe Jeb Bush. He was listed as a member of the Jeb Bush Jewish Leadership Committee. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor led the group, according to The Sun-Sentinel.
According to his website, Sondland has also served as Chairman of Governor’s Office of Film and Television; Chairman of the Portland Art Museum; Commissioner, White House Fellows Commission, appointed by President George W. Bush; President, Pioneer Courthouse Square Board Member; Governor’s Kulongoski’s Transition Team Member; and Mitt Romney Presidential Transition Team. Former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, of Oregon, is a Democrat.
READ NEXT: Alexander Vindman’s Family.