Brandon Truaxe, who founded the skin care company Deciem in Toronto and took it to massive global success with multi-million dollar investment from the Estée Lauder cosmetics empire, has died suddenly aged 40.
There has been no official confirmation of the cause of death, but it is understood he fell from a condominium building near Toronto’s downtown. He had frequently been hospitalized for mental illness over the last year, twice in the U.K. and once in Canada. He has denied he was mentally ill.
In a tribunal hearing under the U.K. Mental Health Act, which followed his detention in London last November, it was revealed doctors were working with a provisional diagnosis of bipolar disorder and related abuse of crystal meth and magic mushrooms.
Truaxe was regarded as a visionary in the world of skin care and cosmetics, in large part for his creation of Deciem, The Abnormal Beauty Company, which prides itself on pure, quality ingredients, clearly labelled, and offered at low prices, many under the brand The Ordinary.
He came to wider public attention last October when he controversially shut Deciem down in a paranoid panic over his fears of financial crimes by people within the company. That prompted legal action by Estée Lauder and another investor that led to Truaxe’s removal as CEO, and a court order to stay away from his own company, of which he owned a third.
Before Deciem, Truaxe ran a company making similar products, called Euoko, and before that he studied computer science at the University of Waterloo.
“You touched our hearts, inspired our minds and made us believe that anything is possible,” Deciem posted on its Instagram page.
“Heartbroken doesn’t come close to how I, and how I know many of you will be feeling,” said CEO Nicola Kilner in a note to staff. Stores were closed out of respect.
Reached by phone on Monday, Truaxe’s longtime colleague at Deciem Riyadh Swedaan said Truaxe had not been in hospital since being released in London in mid-November, and he was not receiving psychiatric care at the time of his death. He had recently been abusing crystal meth, Swedaan said, and would often become angry to the point of yelling, and was highly erratic.
“I don’t think he jumped. I think he fell,” Swedaan said.
Swedaan said he had been Truaxe’s boyfriend for many years and lived at the same apartment, though he had not seen Truaxe since last Tuesday. Truaxe had denied being gay, and in an interview in November said he had no romantic partner and had never been intimate with any employee of Deciem, but he acknowledged Swedaan had lived in his apartment for rent free for ten years.
“He was a very amazing person, very sensitive,” Swedaan said.
Swedaan said he arrived at the condo building in the early afternoon on Sunday, and was worried at the sight of police, but did not immediately learn what had happened.
Police responded at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to a report of a possible suicide at 33 Mill Street, in Toronto’s Distillery District, just a few blocks from Deciem’s headquarters.
A police spokeswoman said the force does not release information on suicides, and did not confirm Truaxe’s name was associated with this call. She said the 1:30 p.m. incident was being investigated as non-suspicious and non-criminal, which is consistent with how police handle both suicides and fatal accidents.
Truaxe had been in Toronto for the past few weeks, according to his occasional bursts of videos posted to his Instagram account. His final video indicated that he had been drinking to the point of intoxication on Saturday night.
Feel like you need help and want to speak with someone? For 24/7 help call Canadian Suicide Prevention Services at 1-833-456-4566, or contact a local crisis centre or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
Before that, he was in a luxury hotel in New York City, sometimes posting many videos a day, sometimes going weeks without posting. Many were either paranoid or hallucinatory.
Deciem had tried for many months to privately manage the increasingly erratic behaviour of their high-profile founder, including arranging care and assistance for him when he was arrested after causing a disturbance in the U.K. last spring.
In many of his recent videos, he appeared to be raging and complaining about his corporate dispute with Deciem, his mentor and partner Pasquale Cusano, a Vancouver jeweller who publishes the luxury Nuvo magazine, and top executives of Estée Lauder, including Andrew Ross and Leonard Lauder, the elderly chairman emeritus and son of founders Estée and Joseph.
Truaxe had lately been trying to find a lawyer to pursue an action against Deciem and Estée Lauder over his removal as CEO.
Brandon Carrano Truaxe was born as Ali Roshan on June 19, 1978 in Tehran. His mother died of cancer when he was young, and his father lives in Iran and is only very rarely in contact.