Estee Lauder buying Sassaby 2 Noxell alumni helped create popular jane line

September 27, 1997|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Two former Noxell executives and the man with whom they built a popular mass market cosmetic brand said yesterday that they will sell out to industry powerhouse Estee Lauder Companies Inc. of New York.

The deal with Sassaby Inc. will be Estee Lauder's first venture into the mass market of face cosmetics. The company has previously not strayed from selling to the "prestige" market with higher priced products that are sold largely through department stores.

Sassaby, which has an estimated $25 million in annual sales, sells jane, a brand of lipstick, nail polish and other cosmetics aimed at the teen-age market that sell for about $2.99 each and are carried by Target Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The company is based in Cardiff by the Sea, Calif., but its president and chief operations officer have offices in Hunt Valley.

Sassaby was originally a cosmetic organizer box business based in California, but its president, Howard Katkov, tried to persuade Don Pettit and Peter Murphy, then Noxell executives, to start a new cosmetics line in 1993.

"I told him he was nuts," said Don Pettit. "It was a tough, crowded category. I had spent 10 years in the business." But he said Katkov is an optimistic and persuasive person.

Pettit and Murphy joined the company. The focus was on the teen-age market as a niche, Pettit said, because by 2005 there will be more teens in America than at the height of the baby boom. Katkov, Pettit and Murphy believed that a hip, fun brand would sell well if priced below $3. They opened in a small office in Towson, and contracted with various companies to manufacture the products.

By the mid-1994, Sassaby began by putting its products in 800 Wal-Mart and Target stores. The business grew quickly and it now sells to about 9,500 stores, primarily discounters and drug stores.

Pettit will be the new senior vice president of marketing and product development for the company, and Murphy will be the senior vice president of materials, planning and manufacturing.

Sassaby will be operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Estee Lauder, which has $3.4 billion in sales. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of October. The amount of the transaction was not released.

Pub Date: 9/27/97

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