In February 2022, Estée Lauder Companies executive John Demsey was fired from the beauty conglomerate after posting a derogatory meme on his personal Instagram account. It derailed his career, much of which was spent transforming the group from a beauty-counter relic into a modern holding company with “disruptive” brands including MAC (which he ran after the group acquired it in 1998), Bobbi Brown, Tom Ford, and Jo Malone.
Estée Lauder is a story for another day (really, many days). But since Demsey’s expulsion, the stock is down 50 percent. Is there a direct correlation with Demsey not being there and Estée’s struggles? My take is that the company would be having a tough time no matter what, and that Estée had no choice but to fire him, but that the two things are linked because so much of the group’s success over the past 20 years stemmed from the decisions he made, and the relationships he nurtured. (For instance, would Tom Ford Beauty have worked without having Demsey on the Estée side, advocating for the designer? I’m not sure.)
Over the summer, Demsey was in the news once again, this time for his appointment as a senior advisor to L Catterton, the LVMH-linked private equity firm behind Birkenstock, A.P.C., Ganni, Etro, Hanna Anderson (great kids pajamas, head hole is too small), and plenty of food and consumer brands, too. The group has made beauty investments as well, including Merit (founded and run by WhoWhatWear co-founder Katherine Power) and Bliss.