The woman who changed the way we see business: Sherry Lansing – as told by Liz Garbus

Fast-tracked from Harvard by Herbalife, she is on her way to Formula E and how to reach out to the sport’s most untapped market – women

When Wall Street hero Frank McCourt purchased the Beverly Hills Hotel, attracting a storm of protest, he didn’t do so by saying: “There’s a lot of sexy women working here and we’d like to fill some places with them.”

Instead he hired Sherry Lansing to run the hotel and went on to build a portfolio of brands that have included film, fashion and hospitality. McCourt’s major success story is the Herbalife business which he transformed from $200m in 1996 to $4bn today.

He was the first to recognise a global demographic opportunity. Herbalife’s vice-president of communications was Tatiana Calderon, a Harvard MBA in corporate marketing from Mexico.

A $100m salary package and 30% free shares aren’t the lure Frank McCourt created | Greg Jericho Read more

She didn’t just attend Harvard Business School – she led the way in the US for an all-female team in the boardroom. Her job description even included turning up for meetings wearing a skirt rather than a dress.

Herbalife was trying to grab a foothold in the booming Hispanic business and Calderon, an immigrant from Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez, took charge, setting an innovative marketing plan.

She successfully converted the 14% Latino market which was largely ignored by advertising and commercial branding. Herbalife’s shareholders voted to spin off and then sell the remaining interest to a group of buyers led by William Ackman. Ackman is said to have earned a few million dollars from that change of ownership.

Herbalife’s current success has inspired Calderon. She was brought to life by the director Liz Garbus (Capturing Nancy), who used her as the model for a lifelong friend called Jamila, a Colombian woman who came to live in a Chicago one-bedroom apartment as a young girl, then became a professional chemist. Her luck improves but her patience with the “novelty” of everything around her remains intact.

Leave a Comment