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Molly Prior Hermann, Former WWD Beauty Financial Editor, Dies

Hermann, who was 41, helped establish WWD's coverage of the booming beauty M&A scene.

Molly Prior Hermann, WWD’s beauty financial editor from 2004 to 2015, died Jan. 26. She was 41 years old.

The cause of death was brain cancer.

“Molly was not only a great journalist but a kind and loving soul, who never tired of juggling the pressures of family life while relentlessly chasing the news,” said Peter Born, WWD’s former executive editor, beauty and now editor at large. “Her writing style was perceptive and inviting and she pioneered the market-based approach to market coverage that WWD’s cosmetics department came to embrace. Molly was the first to highlight the competition between Ulta Beauty and Sephora that drove the beauty retail scene. She was one of the most well-versed editors who ever worked for us and a true leader. Molly would take charge of a breaking story, giving reporters guidance and encouragement while they worked the phones. But that was in the newsroom. At home, her devotion as a mother and wife was absolute. Her loss is tragic.”

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Ed Nardoza, WWD’s former editor in chief, said, “One of WWD’s strengths is the organization’s culture of giving bright young people a chance in a tough, competitive profession. Some struggle and some thrive. Molly thrived. With poise, grace and a fierce intelligence that belied her years, she proved to be one of our proudest and best hires, tackling the beauty industry’s most challenging issues and complex companies and sectors. Her integrity, talent and humor made her a joy to work with.”

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James Fallon, WWD’s current editorial director, said, “Sitting in her corner desk in the WWD newsroom, Molly would calmly and diligently report on the most complex beauty financial story — from Procter & Gamble’s results to the latest merger or acquisition — and helped propel WWD’s beauty coverage to another level. She was unflappable and had a wry sense of humor and twinkle in her eye that were always a delight.”

Hermann studied at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and graduated in 2000. She joined WWD from Drug Store News, where she served as beauty editor from 2002 to 2004. During her time at WWD, she helped establish the publication’s preeminence in covering the beauty M&A scene, writing both news and analytical stories on key deals like Coty Inc.’s acquisition of 43 P&G beauty brands. Hermann also wrote numerous in-depth profiles of industry executives.

“Molly was a bright journalist, and an even better person,” said Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “I am fortunate to have worked with her many times over the years, and will always remember her intellect, thoughtfulness, humor and kindness. This is a very sad loss for everybody who knew Molly, and I send my deepest condolences to her friends and family.”

“Molly was the quintessential journalist — factual, thoughtful, incredibly thorough and knowledgeable,” said Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble. “A call from Molly was one I looked forward to taking, because I could trust that she had the best interest of her reader in mind — always. She will be sorely missed as an industry expert, an outstanding reporter and a wonderful human being.”

She was also remembered fondly by the cadre of securities analysts with whom she often parsed the details of earnings calls and circulating reports.

“Molly was one of a select few who took the extra time to really understand the beauty industry and dig deeper to find the real answer, quickly and adeptly identifying the ‘so what’ and presenting it in a thoughtful and easily understandable manner,” said William Schmitz, managing director at Deutsche Bank Securities. “I can honestly say that I learned much more from her than she could ever learn from me. Her journalistic integrity was second to none and like everything else in her life, she immersed herself in the topic, always with a sunny disposition and positive outlook that drew people to her. She also had great balance in her life as a devoted wife and mother. Molly is a friend of the beauty industry, and me personally, and will be greatly missed.”

“Molly would always see me come back from a morning run when we were at the WWD CEO Summit,” remembered Andrew Shore, managing director, Moelis & Company. “She told me she, too, was a runner and we always tried to make plans, but she could never find the time as she was too busy trying to file a story. 

“Molly always had a smile on her face, had a great sense of humor and never missed an opportunity to tell me about her husband and kids,” he continued. “We talked often about family. That always made her happy. She was smart, fun, athletic and supremely nice.”

“I met her at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit over 10 years ago. She was building her career and I was building mine,” said Shaun Westfall, managing director at Jefferies. “We took a run together at The Breakers — she was super full of life and we developed a relationship based on trust and respect. She embodied the professionalism of her job.”

A funeral mass will be held on Thursday at 9 a.m. at St. Luke’s Church in Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the American Brain Tumor Association. 

She is survived by her parents, two sisters, a brother, her husband, Jason, and two sons, Hugh, seven, and Wesley, four.