View Full Version : Cosmetics Magnate Estee Lauder Dies at 97

26-04-04, 18:21
By DINO HAZELL, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - Cosmetics pioneer Estee Lauder, whose pots of potions and tubs of moisturizers have turned the clock back for millions of faces across the globe, has died. She was 97.

Lauder, who helped launch product lines that included Estee Lauder, Clinique, Aramis, Prescriptives and Origins, died of cardiopulmonary arrest Saturday at her Manhattan home, said Sally Susman, a company spokeswoman.

In 1998, Lauder was the only woman on Time magazine's list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the century. Her company placed No. 349 in the 2003 ranking in the Fortune 500 list of the nation's largest companies, with revenue at $4.744 billion.

In explaining her success, the cosmetics queen once said: "I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard."

"Beauty is an attitude. There's no secret. Why are all brides beautiful? Because on their wedding day they care about how they look," she said. "There are no ugly women only women who don't care or who don't believe they're attractive."

She was born Josephine Esther Mentzer in the working-class Corona section of Queens. Lauder never disclosed her birth date, but a company spokeswoman said she was 97. Her family always called her Esty pronounced ES tee and when a school official spelled it Estee, it stuck, Lauder said.

During the 1930s, she began selling face creams that her uncle John Schotz, a chemist, mixed in a makeshift laboratory in a stable behind the family house. And she began experimenting with mixes herself.

Lauder went to beauty salons where she gave free demonstrations to women waiting under hair dryers. More often than not, they became customers. Sometimes she stopped women on Fifth Avenue to try her products.

"If you put the product into the customer's hands, it will speak for itself if it's something of quality," she declared.

Lauder sold her products primarily through department stores Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Marshall Field's, Neiman-Marcus, Harrods in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris the tonier the better.

A favorite selling tool was offering a gift with a purchase a giveaway that began out of necessity. Lauder started off without enough of an advertising budget to attract an agency, so she used the money instead for free samples.

In 1930, Lauder married a garment center businessman named Joseph Lauter (later changed to Lauder), and they had their first son, Leonard, three years later.

In 1939 she got a divorce and moved to Florida. Years later, she explained why: "I was married very young. You think you missed something out of life. But I found out that I had the sweetest husband in the world."

She and Joseph remarried in 1942, had a second son, Ronald, and went into business together. Her persistence in selling paid off in 1948, when she persuaded a buyer at Saks to place a sizable order.

She and her husband filled the order themselves, cooking up the creams in their factory, a converted restaurant, and bottling them in attractive jars. In two days, Saks sold out and the company was on its way.

While her husband handled the business at home, she traveled to each new store that took her line and personally selected and trained the new saleswomen.

Packaging developed by Lauder in a delicate shade of greenish blue chosen because it complemented virtually any bathroom decor became a trademark.

Estee Lauder became a household name in 1953, when the company debuted Youth Dew, a bath oil and perfume. Over the years she added new lines and new products, fragrances such as White Linen and Cinnabar, the Aramis line of men's toiletries and the Clinique line of fragrance-free, allergy-tested products.

She dueled with archrival Charles Revson, who built the Revlon empire. "She was the one competitor he set out to beat but couldn't," wrote Revson biographer Andrew Tobias.

After being vague about her background for years, Lauder rushed her autobiography, "Estee: A Success Story," into print in 1985. Typically, she was out to beat the competition: in this case Lee Israel's unauthorized biography, "Estee Lauder: Beyond the Magic."

As her privately held company grew, Lauder and her husband involved their sons in the decision making. Leonard Lauder took over as chief executive officer in 1982, the year before Joseph Lauder died, and nearly quadrupled annual sales by 1995. Ronald Lauder left the business for several years in the '80s, serving posts in the Reagan administration and making a failed bid for mayor of New York. He then returned to the company.

Estee Lauder's public life had dwindled after she broke her hip in 1994.

The following year, the company, long tightly held by family members, announced plans to raise $335 million in an initial public stock offering.

This year, Forbes magazine estimated the net worth of her sons at $5.1 billion total, ranking them both among the top 300 richest people in the world.

Mark Garcia
26-04-04, 18:28
Yes, I heard that on the TV news. :(

26-04-04, 18:29
Never knew her. But she lived pretty long. 97 is pretty good.