Lynne Greene has always been good at probing white space in search of new product possibilities. Now the 63-year-old group president of Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., has found a more fertile field of opportunity — retirement.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Since joining Lauder nearly 40 years ago, including a five-year detour to archrival L’Oréal’s Lancôme division, Greene has risen from account executive in St. Louis to a succession of top leadership positions, including the presidency of four divisions. She is now responsible for Clinique, Aveda, Origins, Ojon, Darphin brands, and the Men’s Skincare Group. Her retirement date is June 30, 2016, with a transition period starting in January.

“From the moment Lynne joined us in 1976, I knew she was a star,” said chairman emeritus Leonard A. Lauder. “Not only did she never disappoint, she always went beyond expectation in everything she did. A great leader, a great brand steward and a great person.”

Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer, said Greene had “an enormous and far-reaching impact” on the company. “She was one of the key leaders responsible for building the foundation for success of the Jo Malone London, La Mer and Origins brands,” Freda said, adding that “under her leadership at Clinique, Lynne modernized the equity of the brand.”

Freda went on to praise Greene’s talents as a leader and mentor to younger executives, saying that she “has been instrumental in guiding and mentoring our next generation of leadership.”

Greene said she is most proud of spearheading two Clinique product launches, although the brand reportedly has been struggling recently. But the May 2012 launch of  Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector spawned a $200 million retail sales franchise and, similarly, the introduction of  Chubby Stick generated total brand retail sales of $140 million since January 2011. Both numbers were estimated by industry sources. Greene redirected Clinique’s skin-care strategy by de-emphasizing the antiaging frenzy, and focusing  on products designed to solve dermatological problems.  She led bold color product innovations like Chubby Stick and Bottom Lash Mascara. Greene also pushed hard on transforming the shopping experience, with Service as You Like It.

During an interview, Greene said she also strove to “inspire people to do their best. I don’t manage people. You encourage them.” She said it was a question of “leadership versus management.”

“Lynne is the epitome of an inspirational leader,” agreed William P. Lauder, executive chairman. Ronald S. Lauder, chairman of Clinique Laboratories LLC, described Green as “quite simply, one of the most remarkable persons I have had the honor to work with. Her creativity, her drive and sheer brilliance puts her in a very special category.”

Greene said she has no doubts about the next step. “I am not retiring; I am re-firing my life and relaunching everything,” she asserted. “It’s very exciting and terrifying at the same time. There are so many things on my agenda that I want to do. I have to put them in order.”

Number one, she said, is to go on a safari in Africa, then travel around the world, write a book, spend more time going to the theater and do some nonprofit work. Greene declared, “I will appreciate retiring with grace.”

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