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Association Bisnow
April 17, 2008



Ron and Leslie Sarasin are a match made in trade association heaven. He’s the CEO of the US Capitol Historical Society, she the CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute. But when the two met just over 20 years ago at a party on Ron’s boat, it was anything but perfect. They didn’t even like each other.        


The turning point came in 1987. Leslie, then the director of government affairs for the National Food Broker’s Association, needed an escort for a board function at the Kennedy Center when her date cancelled at the last minute. Ron got the call because “I thought he wouldn’t embarrass me in front of my board,” she says. He must have exceeded those modest expectations—the two were married the following year, forming a powerful union that makes up two percent of the Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100. When we caught up with the Sarasins in Leslie’s McLean office, they told us they frequently consult on association issues like lobbying tactics (Ron was a three-term Congressman from Connecticut) and help each other in emergencies. In a tragic example, Ron’s CFO filled in when Leslie’s CFO died unexpectedly three years ago.                 



Although the Sarasins work well together, they do pretty well on their own. Leslie’s AFFI has 550 corporate members (including biggies like Kraft and General Mills), and annual revenue of $4 million. The organization also manages six affiliates that include the National Yogurt Association and our personal favorite, the National Frozen Pizza Institute, which are independent but share some staff and overhead with AFFI. Ron’s Capitol Historical Society takes in $3.5 million annually and has 100 corporate and 1,500 individual members. The society serves to educate the public about the Capitol through lectures, a heritage series run with the White House Historical Society and Supreme Court Historical Society, and by leading tours.               



After 20 years together, the Sarasins are still (we say this quite admiringly) frisky. They have a nine-year-old son, Douglas, who just might be the next Sarasin to join the association world. He doesn’t have any career aspirations yet, but he accompanies Leslie on some of her AFFI travels and takes tours with Ron. Long after the Bushes have left DC, watch out for the Sarasin dynasty.        

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