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Thia Breen, Former Estée Lauder Cos. Executive, Dies

Former group president, North America, was 73.

Thia Breen, Former Estée Lauder Cos. Executive, Dies

Thia Breen, the long-time executive at The Estée Lauder Companies, died from cancer. She was 73.

Her cosmetics industry career began at her father’s drugstore in Minnesota. At 13, she handled the Bonne Bell account. There, and later at Dayton-Hudson department store, Breen always remembered to put the customer first. In an interview with Beauty Inc in 2013, Breen explained: “It’s how I grew up in the drugstore. I add a few more zeros to the business, but still, that whole idea of, ‘Do we have what the customer wants? Is she coming back? It’s still one customer at a time.”

Breen joined ELC in 1977 as an account executive. Later, she managed Aramis and Origins brands and helped make Clinique the No. 1 department store cosmetics brand in the US. In 2003, she left Estée Lauder for Federated Department Stores, where she served as senior vice president of cosmetics and fragrances. However, Breen returned to ELC in 2005 as president of the Estée Lauder brand. In 2009, she was named group president, North America, of Estée Lauder Cos. and retired from that position in 2017. During her career, Breen served as chair of the Personal Care Products Council.

A Remarkable Estée Lauder Executive and Individual

In an interview with Beauty Inc, Chairman Emeritus Leonard A. Lauder said Breen was among the greatest executives at the Estée Lauder Cos.

“She always had her pulse on what was happening in the industry and, especially, in our home market,” noted Lauder. “She was a wonderful person and will be sorely missed.”

Carlotta Jacobson, president of Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW), said Breen made a practice of returning all calls asking for her guidance, a unique attribute of an executive at a multibillion-dollar company.

“Her response was that it was her way of giving back,” said Jacobson. “The advice and support I received from her over the years was invaluable. I admired her and will miss her and so will all the people whose lives she touched. She left a legacy.” 

Breen is survived by her wife, Laurie Dowley. A celebration of life will take place in September.

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