Home Biographies The Company I Keep

Learn the key ideas of the book by Leonard A. Lauder

The Company I Keep

The story of Leonard Lauder and the evolution of the beauty industry

It is the driving force of true passion which provides a solid base for a business empire. In the case of The Estée Lauder Companies, one of the biggest cosmetics companies in the world, the empire is based on the love of its founder Estée for female beauty. The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty tells the story of Leonard Lauder, Estée’s son and ex CEO. From his childhood spent in hotels before the company was created, to the tumultuous relationship between his parents, to his first success and international recognition, this book is a narrative in which everyone’s private lives are intertwined with the family business. While Leonard grows up, studies, trains with the Marines and prepares to take his place in the company, Estée Lauder gradually became the figurehead of the company we know today. 

The Company I Keep
Read in 17 min.
Listen in 21 min.

A love of beauty against a backdrop of America in crisis: Josephine Lauter, a key figure in Leonard’s childhood

Leonard Alan Lauder was born in New York in 1933 to Jewish parents, Joseph Lauter and Josephine Esther Mentzer. The two later changed their name to Lauder, when they started their cosmetics company. His mother grew up in Queens, and had always been passionate about beauty products, which inspired her to dedicate her life to making all women look beautiful. In the year that Leonard was born, she began to devote herself to what was to become The Estée Lauder Companies.

The bond between the mother and her son was strengthened by the many trips they took together across the United States, from one hotel to another, looking for new clients to whom she could sell her cosmetics. Josephine Lauter realised very quickly that although women had not yet been given the vote, they could still do business. In the America of the Great Depression, if you wanted to earn some money, you needed to have insight, to be able to adapt, know how to communicate and find something that had value. For her, it was beauty, and being comfortable with her physical appearance.

This is what led her father, Leonard’s grandfather, to tell her that she should stop “fiddling with other people’s faces”, referring to the fact that she liked to experiment with creams and cosmetics on everyone she met. Growing up in a family of traders showed her how to link her passion to all the lessons she had learned and how to create the empire that still stands firm today.


The key ideas of "The Company I Keep"

A love of beauty against a backdrop of America in crisis: Josephine Lauter, a key figure in Leonard’s childhood
Uncle John and Josephine’s first approach to women’s cosmetics
The father figure, his parents’ divorce and the second marriage
A love of art from childhood, to the presidency of the Whitney Museum of American Art
1946 and Estée Lauder Cosmetics: riding the postwar wave
The university years: Leonard gets ready to take his place in the family business
The world of perfume: Estée Lauder decides to sell fragrances
Training and experience in the Marines proved useful for working in the family business
A family company: Estée Lauder at the end of the fifties
Meeting Evelyn and Getting Married
Global markets and cultural differences: the birth of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies
Evelyn’s commitment to the breast cancer awareness campaign
An intelligent leadership that helps people grow: the legacy of Leonard Lauder
Take-home message

Try 4books Premium for free!