After several years of playing hard to get, the Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies finally agreed to sit down with Fern Mallis as part of her “Fashion Talks” series at the 92nd Street Y. In his hour-plus interview, Leonard answered dozens of questions on his childhood, early years in the beauty business and passion for art collecting. Here, 10 things you may not know about the beauty industry’s most achieved man and the company he built.

1. “My mother never went to the factory and my father never went where she was.” Early on it became apparent to Leonard that his father handled certain aspects of the business—the lawyers, the trademarks, production, manufacturing and finances— while his mother handled other aspects of the business, including fashion and styling details, and meetings with editors.

2. “Gift with purchase, it’s what drove the company for years.” Saks Fifth Avenue was the first retailer to bring in Estée Lauder products. That was in 1948. To drive sales at Saks Fifth Avenue, Estée created sampling as a concept, giving customers a free face powder. This evolved to gift with purchase, which became a key marketing tool in beauty.

3. “You eat like a buyer.” Most of Leonard’s childhood was spent growing up on the Upper West Side where he enjoyed going to the Tip Toe Inn with his father for lunch every Sunday. Leonard would order shrimp cocktail, the most expensive thing on the menu, prompting his father to say he ate like a buyer.

4. “My parents were in Europe and we couldn’t make the payroll.” As a student at PS 87 Leonard opened a savings account at Central Savings Bank, an account he kept all through school, university and the Navy. He tapped the account early in his career at Lauder, to pay employees, as the company couldn’t make the payroll and his parents were away in Europe.

5. “In case some of you didn’t know, I’m a salesman.” When at the University of Pennsylvania Leonard started a movie club, Cinema Club, where he charged $1 to see 10 films. It did so well that membership outgrew capacity. So, to create another option for moviegoers, Leonard started Film Art Society, which was a different proposition featuring experimental films, where he charged $1.50 to view three films. He took this competitive concept to beauty when he launched Clinique to compete against Estée Lauder, which was growing by 25% to 40% a year and he was nervous that demand would force the company to do things they didn’t want to do.

6. “No matter how smart you think you are there is always someone smarter than you.” The Navy was one of Leonard’s best experiences. He said that at university he ranked third out of 750 students. In the Navy, he ranked 12 out of 24 among his fellowNavy men, who had Phd’s and engineering degrees.

7. “The distributor resigned the Estée Lauder account.” Estée wanted to get into Harrods but the distributor they used said Harrods wasn’t interested. So she flew to London, spoke to the buyer and in an hour the buyer said yes.

8. “Think small.” MAC has the smallest distribution of all the Estée Lauder brands but they do as much as $1 million per store. The secret to MAC’s success over the past 20 years has been keeping MAC, MAC. “It’s as MAC as ever.”

9. “I was only a custodian of the art, it always was destined for a museum.” Leonard’s love of collecting art was always to ultimately build a collection he could donate. He said he only bought things that would make the cut to become part of a collection that would transform a museum.

10. “Crème de la Mer, I chased them for years.” Leonard’s favorite beauty brand is Crème de la Mer. He was told he could knock them off, but knew he couldn’t, so he bought them.