Mary Kay founder, 83, dies

Friday, November 23, 2001

DALLAS -- Mary Kay Ash, 83, whose pink Cadillacs and eponymous cosmetics company made her one of the most famous women in American business, died at her home in Dallas on Thursday.

Ash, who had been in fragile health in recent years, died of natural causes, Mary Kay Inc. said in a news release.

"The world has lost one of its greatest champions of women and one of the most loving and inspirational business leaders," said Ash's son, Richard Rogers, who is also co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer at Mary Kay.

Mary Kay Inc. grew from a sales force of 11 in 1963 to more than 750,000 in 37 countries and wholesale revenue of $1.3 billion last year. But Ash's fans said she was about more than profits, and enriched women's lives at a time when it was difficult for them to succeed.

"I wasn't that interested in the dollars-and-cents part of business," Ash once said. "My interest in starting Mary Kay Inc. was to offer women opportunities that didn't exist anywhere else."

Ash spent most of her life known simply as "Mary Kay," one of the most recognizable names in the United States. As Mary Kay Corp.'s founder and chairman emeritus, she inspired devotion from a 400,000-member sales force.

Each year the convention in Dallas attracted thousands of saleswomen who paid their own way to hear, cheer and revere their founder.

With hard work, the saleswomen could move through the ranks of the company to earn the prized position of national sales director. The position earns an average of $280,000 each year.

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