BEAUTY INDUSTRY MOURNS KURTZMAN
Byline: Laura Klepacki
NEW YORK — Beauty industry icon Allan Kurtzman, who during his five-decade career served as Neutrogena president not once but twice, is being remembered by friends and colleagues as a man of intellect, integrity and warmth.
Kurtzman, a resident of Pacific Palisades, Calif., died July 4 from complications resulting from a fall at his home. He was 74.
Kurtzman’s run in beauty began in the early Fifties at Helena Rubinstein. In 1958, he joined Los Angeles-based Max Factor as merchandising director, and later moved into marketing. By 1972, he had been named executive vice president of marketing worldwide and is credited with guiding the brand’s rapid growth from a $32 million brand to retail sales of $450 million by 1976.
His next move took him to Revlon in New York as executive vice president of Revlon International. After five years, he returned to California for his first run at Neutrogena as president of consumer products.
But his tenure was cut short. Kurtzman was lured back to Max Factor in 1986 when the brand was acquired by Revlon. Now the company president, Kurtzman immediately moved Max Factor back to Hollywood — it had relocated to Stamford in the interim — and expanded distribution. At the end of four years the company’s sales had risen to more than $1 billion retail with distribution in some 130 countries.
Kurtzman also had been credited with setting Neutrogena on its growth course. When Revlon sold off Max Factor to Procter & Gamble in 1991, he returned to Neutrogena as president and chief operating officer. He retired from there in 1995, but has since worked as a consultant. At the time of his death, he was serving as a senior adviser to Revlon president Jeffrey Nugent.
Beyond his business interests, Kurtzman collected art, particularly Hirado porcelain. He also painted, collected Beat poetry and played violin with a local symphony orchestra. Just recently, he took his music outside the concert hall and organized a small group of players to perform for elementary school classes around his neighborhood. A graduate of Hunter College in Manhattan, Kurtzman remained an active alumna and had served as chairman of the Hunter College Foundation.
While admired for his brilliance in new product development — highlights include 2000 Calorie mascara — acquaintances cited Kurtzman’s personal touch as his most distinguishing quality.
Ben Weshler, president of Display Systems, said Kurtzman was like the “storybook uncle, the one who knows you, understands you and shows unqualified love.” He added, “Allan was the kind of individual that had a generosity of soul and spirit that was above and beyond.”
Similarly Revlon’s Nugent said: “I felt about Allan the way I do about my dad. He was such a unique individual.” Professionally, said Nugent, “he helped me understand how important it was to listen.”
More than one friend recalled a rare Kurtzman trait: he would always return phone calls. Advertising executive Dick Tarlow who had been lured out of retirement by Kurtzman to work on the Max Factor brand in the Eighties, recalled: “He saw every media rep and he returned every phone call. He felt it was the polite thing to do.”
Those who worked with Kurtzman said that while he listened and was polite, he wasn’t a “push over.” And he possessed “a wonderful ability to motivate his fellow employees,” commented Jack McAuliffe, president of Beauty Handbook.
Sharon LeVan, who was senior vice president of marketing under Kurtzman during his second tenure at Max Factor, said Kurtzman was also an animal lover and would permit employees to bring their pets to work if they had a veterinarian appointment or some other need.
Michael McNamara, president of Neutrogena, described Kurtzman as “a gifted cosmetics marketer. He was knowledgeable, smart, intuitive and a wonderful gentleman. I will miss my lunches with him.”
Kurtzman is survived by his wife Maxine, daughters Linda Blauner and Beth Ritter, sister Sheila Boubli and five grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for September at Hunter College. An exact date has not been set.