Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s, received the Fragrance Foundation’s Circle of Champions Award Tuesday evening amid a shower of praise that was professed by everyone but the honoree.
This story first appeared in the October 10, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The best of the best, the champion of us all” is how Gould was described by industry leader Leonard A. Lauder, chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
Lauder, who presented Gould with his award during a dinner at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, said Gould’s arrival at Bloomingdale’s in 1991 marked “the beginning of a renaissance of a great store.” The Lauder chairman summed up Gould as “not only a great man and a great retailer but a great philanthropist.”
Earlier, Rochelle Bloom, president of the foundation, recalled how their paths crossed when she was still at Lauder and Gould was running Bloomingdale’s: “He was tough, he was fair, he was a great partner and one of the great retailers of the industry.” Bloom noted that when she left her job, Gould was one of the first people to call and ask what she intended to do. “‘I just want you to know that I’m here,’” she recalled him saying. “‘If you need anything, just pick up the phone.’” Bloom then remarked to the crowd, “I will add one more thing to that list. He is a mensch.”
So how did the object of all of this praise react? He spoke with characteristic humility and trademark eloquence, citing the contributions of a long list of past and present colleagues at J.W. Robinson’s in Los Angeles and Giorgio Beverly Hills, as well as Bloomingdale’s. He said that during 40 years in the business, he noticed that it’s usually the ceo taking the bow, whom he characterized as “the one who usually has done the least.” Gould then suggested that the credit should fall on those who manage to make the sale across the counter, among others. The colleagues whom he worked with in the past “are the reason I am here.”
Gould asserted that he has learned through the years that what matters is “a sense of what’s right, a sense of giving back, a sense of righteousness and a sense that no one ever remembers the numbers.” He concluded, “I am blessed with good people who were able to make me a little bit better. For that, I’m blessed.”