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George Friedman, one of the leaders who helped shape today’s modern beauty industry, died unexpectedly Sunday of a heart attack, only a day after playing tennis with family members. Friedman, who was 77, died at home in Sagaponack, N.Y.
Services will be held at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday at Park Avenue Synagogue on 87th Street and Madison Avenue.
Friedman participated in the early development of both Clinique and Aramis at Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., two brands which had a directional impact on the growth of the global prestige beauty industry. He had joined Lauder in 1968 and eventually became group president of Aramis and Clinique. Prior to joining Lauder, he had worked in advertising for a dozen years at Doyle, Dane & Bernbach; Foote, Cone & Belding, and Young & Rubicam.
Friedman left Lauder in 1976 to start up Warner Cosmetics, a joint venture with Warner Communications and Ralph Lauren. He and another ex-Lauder executive, Robert Ruttenberg, teamed up to usher Ralph Lauren into the world of beauty with landmark launches like the Polo men’s fragrance, the locomotive of the franchise, and the Lauren women’s scent, along with a number of other introductions. The team also launched an innovative Lauren color-cosmetics collection, which is no longer on the market. Friedman also established other brands, introducing Gloria Vanderbilt’s Vanderbilt fragrance and Paloma Picasso’s Paloma scent.
In 1984, Warner Cosmetics was sold to L’Oréal. Friedman, a 1956 graduate of Brooklyn College, stoked his lifelong interest in education by returning to his alma mater as an adjunct professor of marketing. He taught for two years, before returning to the industry.
In 1988, he joined forces with Ruttenberg again and became chairman and chief executive officer of Gryphon Development LP, a joint venture with The Limited Inc., with the mission of creating fragrances for the Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works divisions of The Limited.
“He was a true renaissance man,” said Ruttenberg on Monday. “In the 25 years of our partnership, I never heard him say anything bad about anybody. He had incredible taste and an amazing vocabulary,” Ruttenberg said.
In 1992, Friedman sold his share of Gryphon and returned to his other love, education. He became a visiting lecturer at the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University. He also became chairman of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation. In addition, he was a founding member of the board of New Visions for Public Schools. He was formerly a trustee and member of the executive committee of the New York Public Library. He was also on the board of the Brooklyn College Foundation, the United Way of New York City, Phoenix House Foundation and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
He recently worked as a strategic marketing and branding consultant to Kroll Bond Rating Agency, K2 Intelligence, Verdura and Siegelvision.
Friedman is survived by his wife, Pam Bernstein Friedman; his son, Eric Friedman, and his stepsons, Josh and Andy Bernstein.