Drill Bits, Paint Thinner, Eyeliner

Only days after he was named president of apparel at Sears, Roebuck & Co. in February, 1993, Robert L. Mettler was having coffee at New York's posh Helmsley Park Lane Hotel with Pierre Rogers, president of cosmetics maker Lancome USA. Rogers, a Montreal native, was speaking quickly in his heavy French accent and drawing numbers on a paper napkin. His proposal: that Sears create its own private-label line of cosmetics through a joint venture headed by Rogers, who would resign his lucrative Lancome post. Mettler, who was already planning to discuss the cosmetics business with his new boss, Arthur C. Martinez, then CEO of the Merchandise Group, was intrigued. He didn't commit himself, but put the napkin in his pocket.

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