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Beauty industry loses an icon: Estee Lauder, co-founder of the multibillion dollar cosmetics company that bears her name, dies at 97.

ESTEE LAUDER, creator of one of the best-known cometics companies in the world, died on April 24 after years of illness. She was 97, although some records suggest she was 95. Mrs. Lauder died at her home in Manhattan, due to cardiopulmonary arrest. Mrs. Lauder, together with her husband Joseph, founded the Estee Lauder Cos. in 1946. The company went public in 1995 and has grown to include 18 brands and boast annual sales of more than $5 billion.

Moreover, Mrs. Lauder is credited with creating or popularizing many of the marketing techniques still used by the cosmetics industry, including gift-with-purchase, seasonal color cosmetics collections and beauty makeovers. Most importantly, Mrs. Lauder was a staunch defender of the cosmetics industry and the effect it had on women.

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

"My mother was passionate about three things: her family, the wonderful company she founded and her mission of bringing beauty into the lives of women everywhere," said Leonard A. Lauder, chairman of The Estee Lauder Companies. "She was an inspiration to the women she touched through her products and appearances through the years, to the many employees of The Estee Lauder Companies and, above all, to her family, through her constant love and support. We will miss her immensely."

"My mother was not only a rare businesswoman, but also an extraordinary wife, mother and grandmother," added Ronald S. Lauder, chairman of Clinique Laboratories, Inc. "She brought joy, unique vision and determination to all things. Her spirit lives on in all of us."

A Global Influence

Estee Lauder began by selling four homemade skin care products and in 1930 married Joseph H. Lauder, who became her partner in the business. They remained partners in life as well, until Mr. Lauder's death in 1982. She loved to sell, and those talents led to a counter at New York City's Saks Fifth Avenue in 1948, which was soon followed by contracts at other leading department stores. In 1960, the company began business at Harrods of London, the first of many international accounts. Today, The Estee Lauder Companies' brands are sold in more than 14,000 stores in over 130 countries and territories worldwide.

Along with legendary business executives such as Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Charles Revson, creator of Revlon, Mrs. Lauder helped create the modern cosmetics industry.

"She was the one competitor he set out to beat but couldn't," wrote Revson biographer Andrew Tobias.

With such a competitive attitude, it is no surprise that, in 1998, Mrs. Lauder was the only woman on Time magazine's listing of the 20 most influential geniuses of business of the century. 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."

Family First ... Always

Although Mrs. Lauder will always be remembered as a fierce competitor and successful businesswoman, others remembered Mrs. Lauder's devotion to her family.

"I took a trip with her to Toronto," recalled Rochelle Bloom, president of The Fragrance Foundation. "I was a little nervous, wondering what we would talk about on the flight."

Instead, Mrs. Lauder spoke about how much she missed her husband Joseph, who had passed away a few years prior, how much she loved her family, and how happy she was that her family was near her.

"She didn't say she was blessed because she was rich or had successful company," remembered Ms. Bloom. "Of all the times I've heard her speak, this was the one thing that stood out in my mind because it showed me that human side; that she was, in the end, a wife and mother, and that's where her priorities were. It was seeing another side, a very human side, of a very extraordinary woman.

"She was a great woman, probably the ultimate sales person in the world," continued Ms. Bloom. "(By starting her own company) she did something that at the time was unheard of in a woman. She was tenacious."

As Mrs. Lauder once said, "If you have a goal, if you want to be successful, if you really want to do it and become another Estee Lauder, you've got to work hard, you've got to stick to it and you've got to believe in what you're doing."

For sure, hard work will certainly pay off--but Mrs. Lauder was wrong about one thing: there will only be one Estee Lauder, and her impact on the industry will be felt for generations of beauty executives and the customers they serve.
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Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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