L'Oreal CEO steps down, marking the end of an era

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Company Body shop L'oréal

After 18 years at the helm of the world's leading cosmetics
company, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones has stepped down in favour of
Frenchman Jean-Paul Agon. The question on everyone's lips now is
can Agon measure up to the standards of his formidable successor?

British-born Owen-Jones handed over the reins to Agon yesterday, after the company's AGM in Paris. In the time he has been in charge Owen has overseen some significant changes at the company, leading it to emerge as a leading global entity.

In fact when Owen-Jones took the position in 1988, after three years with company, some 80 per cent of the its sales were derived from the domestic market. Now the company has some of the most recognised brands in the industry and has continued to expand its reach into new markets with acquisitions.

Indeed Owen-Jones has the almost unbeatable claim of having presided during most of its past 21 years of unbroken double-digit pretax profit growth. Given this incredible performance all eyes will now be on the newly appointed Agaon.

The 49 year-old French man has headed L'Oreal's US arm since 2001 and cut his teeth in his new role when he oversaw the company's recent acquisition of the Body Shop.

That acquisition itself represented a major departure for L'Oreal, giving it a firm positioning in both the retail and natural products field almost over night.

But given the company's consistent growth and strong performance, most industry expert believe that Agon is likely to follow a familiar path. Admittedly maintaining growth is likely to become ever-illusive, but with the Body Shop acquisition setting the company on a path towards more diversified acquisitions it does not seem like there is going to be any major surprises in store.

Last week Lindsay-Owen presided over his last ever sales conference, in which he confirmed that the groups quarterly sales up to March 31 amounted to €3.938bn, an increase of 11.3 per cent in organic terms and a like-for-like increase of 6.0 per cent.

"It is important to emphasise, as we do every year at this time, that the significance of the growth rate for a single quarter is limited,"​ Owen-Jones said. "Nonetheless, this promising start to the year, and the prospect of positive exchange rate effects, mean that we can be confident about the outlook for 2006."

But while Agon is busying himself with the daily running of the cosmetics giant, Owen-Jones intends to take things a little easier. He will remain a non-executive president of the company, but says that he now intends to devote more time to his passion for cars and motorbikes.

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