Leonard A. Lauder, the visionary leader who transformed the Estee Lauder Cos. from a single into a global prestige beauty powerhouse, will not stand for reelection when his current term expires in November. Lauder, who turned 90 this year, will retain the title of chairman emeritus of the firm, which was founded by his parents, Estee and Joseph Lauder, in 1964. He will also continue his role as "chief teacher officer", and be involved in key initiatives around employee engagement and brand symposium.
Lauder joined the company in 1958 and became president in 1972. He was instrumental in expanding the company's portfolio of brands, acquiring Clinique, Origins, MAC, Bobbi Brown, La Mer, Aveda, and others. He also led the company's international growth, entering new markets such as China, Russia, and India. He became chairman and chief executive officer in 1995, and stepped down as CEO in 2009, handing over the reins to Fabrizio Freda.
Lauder is widely respected and admired in the beauty industry and beyond for his business acumen, philanthropy and cultural patronage. He is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, the co-chairman of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and a major benefactor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he donated his collection of Cubis paintings valued at over 1 billion. He is also the author of two selling books: The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty (2020) and The Adventure of a Lifetime: Lesson Learned from 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company (2021).
In an internal memo to company employees obtained by WWD, Lauder wrote: "You'll still see me out and about, and perhaps at your desk, your retail store, or at a company event. As we head into the future together, my calling to you is to keep on creating, keep on pushing, and keep on supporting one another. I look forward to seeing you in action."
The Lauder family overall owns 35 percent of the company's total common stock and about 84 percent of the outstanding voting power. Leonard Lauder remains a significant stockholder of the company and has the right to designate two directors. His son, William P. Lauder, occupies one of the seats and is executive chairman of the board. Gary M. Lauder, his youngest son, and the managing director of Lauder Partners LLC, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, will stand for election to the board in November to occupy the second seat. This is the first time Gary Lauder will assume an official role with the Estee Lauder Cos., although the company said he has periodically attended board meetings over the years as an invited observer.