By  on March 4, 2005

NEW YORK — When Del Laboratories was bought by DLI Holding Corp. last year for $480 million, many in the industry thought they had seen the last of William McMenemy.

After all, he had been a major shareholder of the company — Del was publicly traded prior to the acquisition — and, he had put in nearly 40 years of service at the Uniondale, N.Y.-based firm, most recently as executive vice president of marketing.

More telling of a possible exit was his absence at major industry trade shows over the past year. Such no-shows generally get industry mouths moving and the acquisition just seemed to fuel the rumor machine.

Not a chance.

Last week McMenemy surfaced at the Regency Hotel in Manhattan, sans his trademark tan — a trait he explained diminished due to the past year’s organizing of the acquisition — and confirmed to WWD that his place at the company is firm. He’s also anxious to take on his new role as president and chief executive officer of the now privately held Del Labs, while injecting the position with his marketing expertise.

DLI Holding Corp. started out as a venture between affiliates of Kelso & Co., an investment firm, and Church & Dwight Co. Inc., the oral care company that markets a variety of products under the Arm & Hammer, Mentadent, Close-Up, Aim and Pepsodent brands. Church & Dwight is no longer involved. The acquisition was first announced in July and became official in January.

McMenemy said the deal allows Del to reposition itself in the marketplace, complete with resources to fund acquisitions, even into areas outside of mass beauty.

“Now there is greater access to financing. It’s not part of the plan right now, but there are definitely acquisitions in the company’s future,” likely in the salon side of the business, he added.

Recent proof of Del’s interest in dabbling outside the drugstore cosmetics wall is the May launch of the Elizabeth Arden nail polish line, a license Del acquired last year. The salon industry, where the line will be distributed, is new for Del, one that McMenemy believes is a “good idea” since the industry is ripe with acquisition candidates. Elizabeth Arden nail products will enter high-end salons, beginning with the Elizabeth Arden salons across the country, and will compete directly with industry leaders Essie and OPI.McMenemy, brimming with ideas and opinions on the overall beauty industry, didn’t plan on a career creating best-selling cosmetics. He started working in Del’s mail room while he was in college in order to earn money for tuition. He had planned to stay on for three months.

Now, McMenemy plans to bring to the table his marketing expertise, a skill former ceo Dan Wassong wasn’t trained in.

“His background was in sales and dealing with customers,” McMenemy said.

Keeping his finger on the pulse of the industry will be supplemented by Del’s executive team. Harvey Alstodt, formerly Del’s executive vice president of sales, is now charged with expanding the company’s international business, one that McMenemy said is small, “about 20 percent of overall sales.”

Del, which has had a presence in the U.K. for several years, is opening a sales and marketing subsidiary in London this year, as well as one in Mexico City. Last year the Sally Hansen brand launched in Italy and in Russia, and this year Sally Hansen nail care enters Germany. China is on the forefront too, but not for another two or three years. Asia, McMenemy explained, does not stand to be the next big boom center as it does for many other beauty companies, seeing that Asians don’t pamper their hands as much as Westerners do. “It’s almost nonexistent. As a culture they don’t polish their nails,” McMenemy said. As a result, when the time comes to enter China, the company would first introduce its value brand, N.Y.C. New York Color.

Then there’s Bill Boraczek, senior vice president, Sally Hansen Marketing, who replaces Mona Monaghan, and who will fill McMenemy’s old shoes in bringing new, innovative items to the marketplace.

This week the team is in Boca Raton, Fla., attending the beauty industry’s Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association’s annual meeting. It’s the group’s first official outing under McMenemy’s leadership, a place where his days will be spent explaining the company’s 2005 plan and everyone’s new role. It’s also where McMenemy can start working on his tan again.

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