NEW YORK — Estée Lauder Cos. has joined the dermatologist skin care revolution.

Lauder executives said Thursday that the company has acquired a brand that was createdand marketed by Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, two Stanford-trained dermatologists based in Oakland, Calif. Although Lauder has created brands such as Clinique and Prescriptives in the past with the assistance of dermatologists, and recently acquired the French dermatologist-oriented Darphin, Rodan & Fields is the first acquisition of a brand created by practicing American dermatologists. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Dan Brestle, one of Lauder’s group presidents, will oversee the new brand. He has long trumpeted the emerging potential of a rising category of dermatologist brands. “The dermatologists will do for skin care what makeup artists have done for makeup,” he said Thursday.

The Rodan & Fields line, which is called Multi-Med Therapy, is oriented toward problem solving. It was rolled out in fall 2002, with a first-year sales target of $1 million. Targeted at upscale specialty store shoppers, the prescription-style, premade kits are designed to take the guesswork out of formulating a skin care regimen — and deliver vastly improved skin within 60 days. Individual stockkeeping units are sold separately, however, for replenishment. The products are currently available at The Studio at Fred Segal and Bergdorf Goodman and are entering a 10-store group of Nordstrom doors. The dermatology duo were also the minds behind Proactiv Solution, the acne treatment line that has been sold via infomercials for several years.

“Our acquisition of Rodan & Fields is very timely,” said Fred H. Langhammer, Lauder’s president and chief executive officer. “Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields are two highly respected dermatologists who have done an extraordinary job developing and positioning their line. We look forward to a productive and profitable long-term relationship that benefits from their experience as doctors and their understanding of how to apply their clinical knowledge to consumer needs at the counter.”

Brestle, who said Lauder intends to set up an office in San Francisco for the brand, will appoint a general manager to work with the two founders, who will remain co-presidents. “We think it has broad multidistribution appeal worldwide,” Brestle said, adding that, in the U.S., the brand has appeal beyond specialty stores.“There are great opportunities to build the Rodan & Fields business,” said Brestle. “Consumers today have enormous respect for knowledge and expertise. Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields, as practicing dermatologists who treat patients every day, are accomplished skin care authorities. Their product line merges the best of medical care with the cachet of prestige beauty. We think this concept has considerable consumer appeal and tremendous growth potential.”

The existing Rodan & Fields line offers solutions for specific skin problems, targeting them with individually packaged regimens. Each color-coded system combines over-the-counter medications in a series of specific, step-by-step products that address each aspect of a particular skin condition. Each regimen is packaged in a kit containing a 60-day supply of products. The 18-stockkeeping-unit line is priced from $85 to $125 per kit.

While none of the executives would outline additional distribution plans for the Rodan & Fields lines, the doctors said at the line’s launch that they planned “a slow and careful rollout” that could translate to about 300 specialty store doors within five years of launch.

The doctors’ Proactive line, launched in October 1995, is not a part of this deal; the duo’s business partner in that venture is Guthy-Renker.

“We’re thrilled to be able to combine our vision with that of The Estée Lauder Companies,” said Rodan. “Estée Lauder will be an amazing partner and this deal will allow Kathy and I to work with all of the resources of this great company —?including their Blue Sky lab [where new products and concepts are tested].”

“We are so excited about this prospect,” added Fields. “This is a dream come true. Our mission has always been to democratize dermatology — we offer a number of options allowing consumers to treat skin problems ranging from acne to brown spots to a host of other products. We’re women in our 40s — we want to get that information out there.”

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