This story first appeared in the December 13, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A tragedy in the life of a Coty executive has led to life for more than 36,000 people. When Mechtild Harf was diagnosed with blood cancer in 1990, her husband, Peter Harf, chairman and chief executive officer of Joh. A. Benckiser GmbH (which owned Coty Inc. before its 2013 IPO), and daughter, Katharina, were told that a bone-marrow transplant could save Mechtild’s life. With the odds of finding a match ranging from one in 20,000 to one in millions, having only 3,000 donors available in Germany at the time made the situation seem hopeless. With the help of family, friends and volunteers, Peter Harf worked tirelessly to recruit 68,000 bone-marrow donors in only one year. Sadly, a match was not found and Mechtild died in 1991. Immediately thereafter, Peter and Katharina, along with founding partner Coty, channeled their grief into founding Delete Blood Cancer DKMS, the world’s largest nonprofit bone-marrow transplant organization, which has been responsible for saving more than 36,000 lives via transplants. Coty sponsors a celebrity-heavy gala each year to raise funds for the organization, but the real stars are the more than 3.7 million potential donors the company has helped recruit through its dedication to the cause.