NEW YORK — Funeral services were held Tuesday at Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan for Sol Levine, a member of the inner circle of the late Revlon founder Charles Revson. Levine later went on to run the company as president from 1985 to 1991, after it was acquired by Ronald Perelman and his company, McAndrews & Forbes.
This story first appeared in the September 6, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
His widow, Dorothea, said Levine died last Friday from complications arising from arterial surgery following a long illness. He was 79.
Levine’s more-than-50-year career was multifaceted: He ran businesses as varied as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, a brass mill and electrical appliances as well as cosmetics. In the process he was involved in the development of more than 50 patents, according to his family.
Levine started with a point-of-sale display firm, inherited from his father. He developed a Lucite model that he pitched to Revson, who bought the display, beginning a lifelong friendship. In the early Fifties, he joined Revlon as the executive charged with making sure that the burgeoning company’s rapidly evolving manufacturing capabilities kept pace with the ballooning consumer demand fueled by Revlon’s sponsorship of the popular TV quiz show, “The $64,000 Question.”
Levine left Revlon in the late Fifties — before the show became engulfed in scandal — and became the head of operations for a mass market toiletries company. He later joined Revson’s brother, Martin, at a company then called Mardel. According to his widow, Levine turned the floundering company around, reestablished it as Del Laboratories and moved its headquarters from Manhattan to Uniondale, N.Y. During his tenure as chief executive officer from 1964 to 1969, he oversaw the launch of Sally Hansen nail care and Orajel, which remain today two of the company’s stalwarts.
Levine returned to Revlon in November 1969 as executive vice president, reporting to Revson, who died in 1974. Levine began by heading operations, then became chairman and president of the international division. In the early Eighties, he left to become a senior consultant, working on special assignments such as troubleshooting and turning around troubled businesses of Revlon.
McAndrews & Forbes acquired Revlon in 1985 and Levine became president of the company, which then included both beauty and health care companies. While the new owners divested companies on the health side, Levine was solidifying the cosmetics base with acquisitions like Max Factor and Charles of the Ritz. After leaving Revlon in 1991, Levine kept working with small emerging health care companies up until his death.
Levine is survived by his wife of 36 years; a daughter, Danielle; a son, Philip, and a sister, Florence Weintraub.