Brandon Truaxe, the controversial founder of the skin care company Deciem, has died

Brandon Truaxe, who made headlines first for launching 10 beauty brands at once and most recently for being ousted from Deciem, the company he founded, has died. An executive at the company has confirmed the news in an email to Vox.

According to a report in Canada’s National Post, “it is understood he fell from a condominium building near Toronto’s downtown.” Riyadh Sweedan, a Deciem employee who also said he lived with Truaxe and had been his boyfriend, told the paper, “I don’t think he jumped. I think he fell.” A spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service would not confirm to Vox any information about the incident, beyond that they had been called to Truaxe’s neighborhood of the Distillery District and found no evidence of criminal activity.

Acting CEO Nicola Kilner wrote in an email to Deciem’s staff, which Vox has reviewed:

I can’t believe I am typing these words. Brandon has passed away over the weekend. Heartbroken doesn’t come close to how I, and how I know many of you will be feeling.

All offices, warehouses, factories and stores please close today and take the time to cry with sadness, smile at the good times we had, reflect on what his genius built and hug your loved ones that little harder.

We are all in disbelief and shock but I will be in touch again very soon.

I love you all incredibly much, as did he.

The company posted the following message on its Instagram:

It has been a tumultuous year for the company and Truaxe, its controversial founder. Deciem, which is headquartered in Toronto, gained a following and made reportedly upward of $300 million in sales after launching the Ordinary, a skin care brand whose products cost mostly less than $10. He had crafted much of the company’s messaging personally, calling it the “Abnormal Beauty Company.” He was a quirky and charismatic founder who connected personally with consumers.

In early 2018, however, Truaxe started gaining negative publicity for the company when he began posting bizarre and troubling messages on the company’s Instagram. Estée Lauder, a minority investor in the company, took legal action against Truaxe in October 2018 after he posted on Instagram that the company should immediately be shut down because of “financial crimes” he said had been committed. (There has thus far been no proof publicized that this is the case.) An attorney for the cosmetics giant told a judge that Truaxe “has essentially lit the company on fire,” according to a report by the CBC.

The judge ousted Truaxe as CEO, and appointed Nicola Kilner as acting CEO (Kilner had previously been co-CEO before Truaxe fired her, but she had been recently reinstated at the company). A few days later, a judge issued a restraining order against Truaxe after the founder sent emails to Estée Lauder chair emeritus Leonard Lauder and other executives that were viewed as threatening.

A representative from the Estée Lauder Companies sent the following statement to Vox:

Brandon Truaxe was a true genius, and we are incredibly saddened by the news of his passing. As the visionary behind Deciem, he positively impacted millions of people around the world with his creativity, brilliance and innovation. This is a profound loss for us all, and our hearts are with Nicola Kilner and the entire Deciem family.

A December report by Canada’s Financial Post revealed that Truaxe had been hospitalized under suspicion of mental health issues. Truaxe denied having been diagnosed with a mental illness but did admit to using various drugs.

Truaxe had been posting erratic videos and messages on his personal Instagram page for the past few weeks. His last four posts, from January 19, were videos alone from his penthouse in Toronto’s Distillery District, whose address he publicized. Commenters expressed concern about his stated drinking, as he claimed to be drinking tequila. One wrote, “BE SAFE.”

Truaxe was 40 years old.

We will update this developing story as more information becomes available.


Update: This post has been updated to include statements from Deciem and Estée Lauder, and with further details about the circumstances surrounding Truaxe’s death.

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