Janet Wagner, who globalized the Estée Lauder brand, had 92 . died in

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Janet Wagner, who globalized the Estée Lauder brand, had 92 . died in

Janet Sarkeesian Wagner, both a businessman and a diplomat for Estée Lauder, who popularized the brand’s high-end lipsticks and perfumes among the women of the Soviet Union and China during the increasing globalization and free trade of the 1980s and 90s, on Feb. she passed away. 26 in Manhattan. She was 92 years old.

The death was confirmed by his niece Nicole Vartanian.

Mrs. Wagner was president of Estée Lauder’s international operations from 1986 to 1998, a period when the division was transformed from a small and relatively unprofitable branch of the New York-based company into one that accounts for nearly half of its multi-billion dollar business. was part.

“We were partners in the creation of Estée Lauder International,” said Leonard Lauder, the company’s chief executive in those years, in a phone interview. “We worked closely together and we totally understood each other.”

The economy of the Soviet Union was partly supported by its leader Mikhail S. Opening under Gorbachev, Estée Lauder launched its first Russian location in November 1989, about a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall, beating McDonald’s by two months. The Moscow branch was a few steps away from the Kremlin and Red Square.

“We have what would be the equivalent of an address on Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue,” Mrs. Wagner told the trade journal Management Review in 1990.

On the day of the opening, police put up barricades and barricaded the entrance to the subway to accommodate a row of hundreds of Soviet women, some of them wives of prominent figures in the Communist Party. They bought products like Tuscany, a cologne that cost 120 rubles – more than half the average Soviet worker’s monthly salary.

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During a single day immediately after opening, the store’s sales increased by 210,000 rubles.

Ms. Wagner made sure that every woman in line on Opening Day had a chance to buy something. He forbade Soviet politicians to take the load of goods for himself. She helped negotiate a complicated ownership deal with the Soviet government, and she helped oversee the training of the store’s Russian workers, to whom personal customer service was unfamiliar.

“The whole concept of being able to advise and offer expertise to people is completely different,” Mrs Wagner told Management Review. “They haven’t been in a demand-supply situation.”

She was developing a strategy for how to enter a new market: establish free-standing stores to control how the brand was presented; nurturing personal relationships to understand a new market; And remove obstacles in business.

He and Mr. Lauder collaborated in the early 1990s on another important expansion – in China. During her career, Mrs. Wagner launched marketing campaigns in over 100 countries.

In an unexpected turnaround, the location where Mrs Wagner made one of her major international successes for the company is now the site of a major comeback. Earlier this month, Estee Lauder announced it was closing all commercial activity in Russia, including closing all stores it owns and operates in response to the war in Ukraine.

“We were lucky to be in the era we were in,” said Mr. Lauder, adding Mrs. Wagner, “he was having more fun than you could ever imagine.”

Janet Sarkeesian was born on July 2, 1929, in Chicago to Soren and Nazli (Norseigian) Sarkeesian, refugees from the Armenian Genocide. Her family ran two small grocery stores, one in Chicago and the other in suburban Evanston.

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Janet helped shop during her teen years, and she later recalled with pride how spotless they were kept, all the cans carefully facing the same direction, and how her father had instructed her. That when she delivers, reject the suggestions that were advertised as free.

She graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree, where she studied English, and in the 1980s she went back to school, graduating from Harvard Business School’s advanced management program.

Prior to Estée Lauder, Mrs. Wagner worked in journalism, serving as the first female senior editor of The Saturday Evening Post and editor-in-chief of Hearst Corporation’s international magazines.

After stepping down from running Estée Lauder’s international division in 1998, she served as the company’s vice chairwoman and on the boards of several nonprofits, including the Library of America.

Her husband, Paul Wagner, whom she married in 1965, died in 2015. In addition to Ms. Vartanian, she has two step-children, Paul and Paula Wagner.

Sally Sussman, Estée Lauder’s head of communications during Mrs Wagner’s time as vice chairman, recalled in a phone interview the extraordinary gestures of respect for Mrs Wagner’s foreign business partners.

When a delegation of Chinese government officials, some of whom knew Mrs. Wagner as acquaintances, others went to New York on business and as a courtesy to her, they offered dinner invitations to each of her hotel rooms. Sent a package with, Estee Lauder products and tourist recommendations.

“She was the queen of hand-delivery,” said Ms. Sussman.

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