NEW YORK — The Estée Lauder Cos. is expected to announce today that John Demsey, global president for the Estée Lauder and MAC Cosmetics brands, has been named a group president for the worldwide beauty giant, effective immediately.
The promotion also gives Demsey a seat on Lauder’s executive committee, which voted late Wednesday to approve his appointment.
Demsey will continue to report to Dan Brestle, chief operating officer of the Estée Lauder Cos. Demsey joins three other group presidents at Lauder: Philip Shearer, Cedric Prouvé and Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne. A fourth slot was formerly held by Brestle, who was named to his current role in December 2004. Shearer, Prouvé and Bousquet-Chavanne continue to report to William Lauder, president and chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos.
His new title is a recognition of the innovative moves Demsey has made that have begun to transform the image of Lauder, while shaking up the prestige cosmetics sector. “This is an acknowledgment of John’s accomplishments — and recognition of what we expect from him in the future,” said Lauder, calling Demsey “an incredibly creative manager.”
“John controls a lion’s share of our company’s business with the MAC and Lauder brands,” added Brestle, calling the appointment “a somewhat overdue recognition of a job well done.”
Demsey has been involved in the majority of the most high-profile projects undertaken by the company recently — including the signing of Tom Ford to a beauty deal. At the time of that deal’s announcement in April 2005, Ford told WWD that he first became acquainted with Demsey when leading the Gucci Group. “John and I met because I tried desperately to steal him seven years ago when we bought YSL Beauté,” Ford said at the time. “And I wasn’t able to succeed.”
Demsey also helped put together Sean “Diddy” Combs’ fragrance project, signed in May 2004. It has yielded a top-five men’s fragrance this year, with a women’s scent expected in 2007.
He has also recruited a strong roster of star power for his various brands, signing Gwyneth Paltrow to appear in Estée Lauder brand advertising, and also hiring a number of well-known celebrities for the MAC Cosmetics brand, including Catherine Deneuve, Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli, all of whom have designed limited-edition cosmetics for MAC. Demsey, who is chairman of the MAC AIDS Fund, has involved many celebrities — including Pamela Anderson, Boy George, L’il Kim, Eve and Chloë Sevigny — in that effort over the years, as well.
“John was instrumental in bringing Sean Combs and Tom Ford to the company,” said Brestle. “One of his talents is that he can look at the world landscape and see the opportunities — not all American executives can do that. He also has a unique point of view, particularly in structuring. It was his idea to involve both MAC and Aramis in the Sean John brand [most of the creative work was done by MAC Cosmetics and Karyn Khoury of corporate fragrance development, with distribution done by the Aramis and Designer Fragrances division] and in Tom Ford Beauty [where much of the operational work has been done by the Prescriptives brand]. He has brought, and will continue to bring, this type of thinking to the corporation.”
While Lauder said that he encourages all of the corporation’s executives to look for innovation, he acknowledged that Demsey — particularly with Sean John and Tom Ford Beauty — is particularly skilled at it. Discussing the synergistic operational structures Demsey helped establish with Tom Ford Beauty and Sean John, Lauder said that additional future deals would follow the integrated structure. “It’s an expedient, logical way to do business,” he said.
Demsey began his career on the retail side of the business, working in various executive roles at Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, and also held executive positions for the Borghese, Alexandra de Markoff and Lancaster brands. He joined the Estée Lauder Cos. in 1991 as vice president and West Coast field sales manager for the Estée Lauder brand, finishing his first stint on that brand in 1998 as senior vice president of sales and education for Estée Lauder USA and Canada. He took over MAC Cosmetics in April 1998, first as general manager and then as president, and later was named global president of MAC. In January 2005, he added global president of the Estée Lauder brand to his responsibilities. In addition to MAC and Lauder brand duties, in February 2006 he was put in charge of Prescriptives Worldwide, Tom Ford Beauty and Sean John Fragrances, with these brands’ presidents and general managers also reporting to him.
“My number-one priority is to continue the evolution and the transformation of the Estée Lauder brand,” said Demsey. While he wouldn’t offer specifics, he said that there are a full slate of new innovations planned for the Lauder brand in the next year. He added that continuing MAC’s success and nurturing the Prescriptives, Sean John and Tom Ford Beauty brands are also of key importance.
Speaking of his tenure at Lauder, Demsey added, “I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in doing lots of transformational things — I had seven years [solely] on Estée Lauder, seven years [solely] on MAC, and now work on both. It’s also been extraordinary to work on the Sean John and Tom Ford brands. I have been given a number of amazing opportunities by the Lauders.” He said that he is particularly excited to be joining the board and giving input on the company’s overall strategy.
Brestle agreed: “He’s very inquisitive and is always looking for the next opportunity. He is a young man with a bright future, and certainly one of our future talents.”