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After Turnaround, Elizabeth Musmanno to Exit Fragrance Foundation

Musmanno, who served as president for five years, plans to stay on to find her replacement.

After almost five years at the Fragrance Foundation, president Elizabeth Musmanno is leaving the organization. Musmanno said she wants to return to more profitable pursuits. She is working on a number of licensing deals in beauty and other industries. Musmanno said she plans to stay on through the Fragrance Foundation Awards on June 14, while the organization looks for a successor.

Musmanno joined the Fragrance Foundation in a moment of crisis — she was told she had six months to fix the business or it was going to be closed — and she’s leaving it in the best financial shape of its life, she noted.

“When I joined, The Fragrance Foundation needed a lot of help,” Musmanno said. “We had to turn it around — turn around the reputation, bring a renaissance to the events, turn it around financially.”

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And turn around it has. Revenues for 2016 were up 10 percent. And membership has been up about 10 percent for the past several years, she noted.

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“What I’m most proud of is turning a business around, and taking a business that was in dire straights and bringing it back to life,” Musmanno said. “It was a pulling a phoenix from the ashes play — growing the membership and changing the reputation and bringing a certain quality and chicness to the events.”

Those events have recently brought in some big names — Leonard Lauder, Les Wexner, John Demsey, Ken Robinson, Stefan Sagmeister and Bill Clinton have all made appearances. Musmanno’s lineup for 2017 includes Marc Puig, chief executive officer of Puig, who will be honored with the Hall of Fame award at the Fragrance Foundation Awards on June 14; Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and ceo of L’Oréal, who is scheduled to speak this fall, and Nicolas Mirzayantz, group president fragrances at International Flavors and Fragrances, who will join the Circle of Champions.

That level of executive or person, the ones “who aren’t attending every event or reading every newsletter we send out — but when those types of men and women at that level feel it…those types of moments make me proud, if you will.”

“There’s no doubt that what she’ll always be known for is bringing back the class and high-quality image of the awards, which I think everybody appreciates now in a way that probably is unprecedented,” said Jerry Vittoria, chairman of the Fragrance Foundation and president of fragrances for North America at Firmenich. “What really worked well was Elizabeth putting together a team that complemented and really motivated the board to work together in a combined force to really turn the foundation around.”

At The Fragrance Foundation, Musmanno’s approach has been multipronged — bring the glamour back to the Fragrance Foundation Awards, add a chic, branded element to the foundation’s offerings, launch The Fragrance Academy, aimed at professionals in the perfume industry as well as consumers, and spearhead expansion beyond traditional fragrance into other scents — like the ones in laundry detergent.

“When [Musmanno] took over, the awards had somewhat slumped — they started off years ago as a very glamorous event, and over the years perhaps we weren’t able to keep that going, and so people were not interested necessarily to associate their product with the awards,” Vittoria said back in June. “By elevating the awards, by making it something really prestigious, quite a number of different companies have decided to once again tie that into their marketing campaigns.” One example is A Thousand Wishes, a Bath & Body Works fragrance that won The Fragrance Foundation Award for Consumer Choice, Popular, and decided to use that as part of its marketing campaign.