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A former president of Puig for more than 30 years, he spearheaded the group’s international expansion and brought in the fragrance and fashion businesses of designers such as Paco Rabanne and Carolina Herrera.
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Mariano Puig was born in Barcelona in 1927. He earned a doctorate degree in chemical engineering and was a graduate of the IESE Business School in 1964.
He is the father of four sons, including Puig chairman and chief executive officer Marc Puig, and one daughter.
“Beginning in his youth, Mariano Puig stood out for his leadership abilities and a sense for business growth, establishing important ties with the United States, the Caribbean and France,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.
At the end of the 1950s, he sealed a distribution agreement for the Agua Lavanda Puig fragrance in the U.S., then became the representative for the Max Factor brand’s distribution in Spain for more than 15 years.
That experience in the U.S. was followed by Puig — who became company president in 1957 — setting his sights on yet another foreign country: France.
“After three years, we realized that to succeed in the U.S., we needed a French product coming from Paris,” explained Puig in a WWD interview published on July 11, 2014, as part of a Milestone section celebrating his family company’s 100th anniversary.
“We had three alternatives: Hire a French company, but we didn’t have money for that,” he explained. “The second was to get representation from a French company for distribution in the U.S. We didn’t like that [possibility] because we would work for somebody else. The third option was to create our own brand.
“I remember we made this decision in New York,” said Puig. “I couldn’t sleep at all because I thought: ‘How can we create a brand in Paris? We are a very small company…known in Spain. Nobody else knows us. How could we do that?’” Puig continued. “But this was the real option to succeed. By chance, we arrived at an agreement with Paco Rabanne [in 1968]. We started with very little capital and four employees in France. We created Calandre [women’s fragrance]. It was a great success in this period.”
That’s the time when the Puig company started to define itself as being a brand-builder.
“The two assets we have are first, people, and then being able to develop brands — creativity,” said Mariano Puig in the 2014 interview.
In 1987, Puig and Herrera inked an agreement for the production of her fragrances, and that was followed by the purchase of her fashion division in 1995, which the executive negotiated.
In 1998, Puig and his three brothers — Antonio, Jose Maria and Enrique — stepped down from running Puig, which had been founded by their father, Antonio. Those executives of the second generation made way for a team of four others — Mariano Puig Jr.; his brother, Marc Puig; their cousin Manuel Puig, and Javier Cano, a nonfamily member.
At that time, during an emotional farewell speech reported on by WWD and published in an article appearing in the issue of June 19, 1998, Mariano Puig said: “Our competitors just five years ago were family companies and had the names of their founders on the doors, but walls disappear, markets evolve.
“Only 15 percent of companies survive the transition from the second to the third generation,” he asserted. “We are an entrepreneurial people. We are a family company, and this change is everything from an improvisation.”
At the conference, the incoming executives unveiled a holding arrangement designed to insure that the family maintained control of Puig, which was generating sales of $750 million from its fashion and fragrance activities.
The four outgoing Puig brothers maintained roles as members of the company’s administrative board.
Mariano Puig was chairman of the Puig family holding company, Corporación Exea Empresarial, between 1996 and 2003. He served as president of the Puig Foundation until May 2014.
Puig was also a founding member of the Family Business Institute in Spain, where held the position as president from 1995 to 1997.
Puig was a member of a number of other institutions, as well, including the Spanish Royal Academy of Language Foundation, the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado and the University Board of IAE Business School.
The executive was a stellar athlete. As a young man, he served as a member of the Spanish National Water Skiing Team and became the champion of Spain twice over in the sport. Puig was president of the Spanish Federation of Water Skiing and organized the World Championship in water skiing in Banyoles, Spain, in 1971.
He received numerous awards, including the gold medal from the Spanish Institute of New York, the Family Business Award from Chicago’s Kellogg University and the Kingdom of Spain Award for his business career, which was presented by King Felipe VI in February 2019.
Mariano Puig’s ethos still strongly infuses Puig today, where the groundwork is being laid for the company to be transferred from the third to the fourth generation of family members.
The group has grown into a major force in the fragrance, beauty and fashion industries, with a portfolio of brands including Nina Ricci, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Dries Van Noten and Charlotte Tilbury.
In 2019 — the latest year for which company results have been released — Puig generated net sales of 2.03 billion euros.
Mariano Puig is survived by his wife, Maria Guasch, and children. A funeral service is being planned.
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