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Deciem's Co-Ceo Has Been Let Go, Following Weeks of Public Controversy [Updated]

Nicola Kilner has been dismissed from the buzzy skin-care company.
Photo: @deciem/Instagram

Photo: @deciem/Instagram

According to Racked, co-CEO of Deciem, the parent company of ten skin-care brands, including the popular The Ordinary, Nicola Kilner, has been let go. (The publication confirmed the news with Kilner herself via text, to which she responded simply, "Sadly yes. I'm too heartbroken to talk about it at the moment.") There are also reports that Deciem CFO Stephen Kaplan has resigned, though this has not been confirmed.

This news comes after weeks of controversy for the company. While Deciem's founder and co-CEO Brandon Truaxe had previously been lauded as a maverick in the industry, preaching "radical transparency" across his company's brands, that persona has become more troubling of late, with some of the brand's fans worrying that he'd begun to take it too far. Truaxe personally runs the company's Instagram account, where his posts began to seem unstable — and even offensive to some. As The Cut summed it up in one story:

"Since Truaxe started posting directly from the @Deciem account, he's revealed a new product, publicly flagellated himself for the poor sales of a sub-brand, issued directives to employees and relinquished his CEO title. Reddit has been flooded with conspiracy-theory threads and panicked memes about Truaxe's behavior, questioning whether he's doing okay, whether the communication and apologies are performative or honest, and the company's viability to continue producing affordable serums."

In some cases, people became so offended by Truaxe's comments that they went so far as to burn The Ordinary's products and share the footage on social media. Despite all this recent controversy, Kilner's dismissal is particularly surprising, as she served as an unwaveringly upbeat leader and public face for the company throughout somewhat rocky times, most recently appearing publicly to speak at WWD's Digital Beauty Summit this week.

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The fate of Deciem is one that those in the industry — and anyone who is a fan of accessibly priced retinol — will surely be watching closely. The nearly five-year-old, Toronto-based company has been a beauty industry darling, experiencing rapid growth and massive online popularity, especially with its low-price brand, The Ordinary. According to WWD, Deciem's sales for 2017 amounted to somewhere between $120 million to $150 million, and Truaxe expects that number to double or even triple in 2018. In addition to launching in Sephora, Deciem also began its own brick-and-mortar expansion in the U.S. in 2017, with six The Ordinary stores expected to open in New York City by the summer of 2018.

Deciem also caught the attention of industry giant Estée Lauder, which purchased a minority stake in the company in June of 2017. "In four short years, Brandon and Nicola have established, in Deciem, a powerful engine of innovation and growth," Fabrizio Freda, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Estée Lauder Companies, said in a statement at the time. "Through its unique business model, Deciem has produced some of the most creative independent brands on the market, capturing the passion and trust of devoted fans around the world — and they are just getting started. We look forward to engaging with the team and supporting their global growth aspirations." 

A representative from Deciem declined to confirm or deny any of the aforementioned news or provide any comment at this time. Fashionista has also reached out to The Estée Lauder Companies and will update this post as additional information becomes available.

UPDATE, Friday Feb. 23, 8:19 a.m.: WWD has confirmed the news that Deciem Chief Financial Officer Stephen Kaplan has resigned, and also got in touch with Truaxe, who "doesn't seem too concerned with the management shakeup." According to Truaxe, there are no immediate plans to replace Kilner, whose termination resulted "because of an alleged conflict related to an employee who had been with him 'from day one'." He added that more terminations at the company may be coming soon and denied concerns some have raised about "drug use and psychosis," telling WWD, "It's my company. It's my house. If someone doesn't like how I decorate my house it doesn't matter if they're my mother or a guest, they have to leave the house."

When asked by WWD if this is a period of growing pains, Truaxe instead described it as "jealousy pains," claiming that the company's competitors and former employees are stirring up controversy because they are jealous and feel threatened by the success of Deciem's brands, most notably The Ordinary. The publication also got in touch with Kilner, who commented simply, "I love Brandon and the team unconditionally and am too hurt to comment further."

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