Lisa Maria Falcone Steps Into the Spotlight

It hasn't been a fun ride for hedge fund manager Phil Falcone since he picked up 20 percent of the New York Times Co. a couple of years ago. He had to face off against the ruling Sulzberger clan for representation on the board of directors and the company's plunging stock price means his investment in the paper is now worth a few hundred million less than it once was. Today, however, he gets his money worth with a Times profile of his beloved bride, Lisa Maria Falcone, who, as the title of the piece informs us, is a "philanthropist with a sense of timing." Indeed!

The occasion for the article is the $10 million donation that the Falcones made to the High Line recently, a last-minute gift that ruffled a few feathers since it appeared to some to be an attempt to overshadow the philanthropic efforts of longtime High Line supporters Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, but still managed to earn Phil and Lisa a coveted spot at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Phil jumped in front with his scissors in hand; Lisa flitted around the event in high heels and little white ankle socks.) But the High Line event, the Times informs us, is just the beginning. Lisa, you see, is now "stepping into the spotlight, beginning the transition from one wealthy patron among many to the kind of highly visible player sought after by the city’s leading arts organizations."

Lisa has come a long way, to be sure. She reports that she was raised in Spanish Harlem by a single mother who was an alcoholic and on welfare, and although she desperately wanted to take advantage of cultural opportunities around town, "her mother refused to sign the permission slips that came home for school art trips." Things turned up when she was working as a model in her 20s and she met her future husband at a restaurant. Notwithstanding a few bumps along the way—Lisa briefly alludes to a rough patch in the '90s when the couple faced some financial difficulties, although the tale is quickly cut off by her publicist, Matt Hiltzik—Phil has emerged as a major force in hedge-fund-land, is now worth $2.3 billion according to Forbes, and the couple live in the former Guccione mansion on the Upper East Side. (The couple's pet pig reportedly has his/her own bedroom in the townhouse, but it looks like we'll have to wait until the next Times article to hear more about that, alas.)

So everything turned out well, right? Not exactly. Being the wife of a billionaire, the mother of four-year-old twin girls, and an up-and-coming philanthropist isn't all it's cracked up to be, it turns out. Those little white socks she wore to the High Line event? It wasn't a fashion statement, as you may have assumed:

If she wears Fogal ankle socks with her Hermès high heels—as she did to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's news conference at the opening of the High Line earlier this month—it's because she is busy with her 4-year-old twin girls, she said, and lacks time for a pedicure.

You can't have it all, can you?

Philanthropist With a Sense of Timing Raises Her Profile [NYT]
Previously: The Real Housewife and the Gray Lady [Cityfile]
Lisa Maria Falcone: The Lost Interview [Cityfile]