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After four sometimes trying years at the helm of L’Oréal’s North American operation, Laurent Attal is being promoted back to the Paris headquarters to take charge of the industry leader’s global research and development effort, plus its year-old innovation department.
Attal will be replaced in New York by Frederic Roze as the new president and chief executive officer of L’Oréal USA.
Attal’s new title will be executive vice president and managing director of research and innovation, succeeding Jean-François Grollier, who is retiring at age 65 after 40 years with L’Oréal. In a telephone interview Saturday, Jean-Paul Agon, ceo of parent L’Oréal, described Grollier as the driving force behind the company’s R&D effort, the largest in the industry accounting for 3.3 to 3.4 percent of sales (last year 17 billion euros) and employing more than 3,000 workers. Grollier had the vision of expanding the scope of beauty research beyond chemistry to include biology and life sciences while building a worldwide network of laboratories and evaluation centers. Agon said that the innovation department, which is charged with “anticipating new trends and working with the labs at an early stage,” was linked to Attal’s R&D portfolio “to accelerate the innovation and make sure the R&D force drives to deliver [it].” Agon added, “we believe this is very important for the company. What sells now is innovation.”
Roze, 47, head of the mass-market Consumer Products Division for Europe, is to arrive in New York in March and succeed Attal by July 1. He joined L’Oréal in 1986 and became managing director of the Consumer Products Division of L’Oréal Russia before being named general manager of Gemey France in 1996.
Later, as managing director of L’Oréal Argentina, Roze is credited with orchestrating the recovery of the business amid a financial crisis. He moved to Spain in 2002 as head of both the Consumer Products and Professional Products Divisions, and boosted market share in many categories, L’Oréal said. Roze became director of the Consumer Products Division for Western Europe in 2004, then his duties were expanded across Europe.
Agon said Attal, 51, was picked to spearhead R&D and innovation, not only because he has a background in science but also for his strategic acumen and leadership abilities.
Attal, was a trained dermatologist and earned an M.B.A. before joining L’Oréal in 1986. He built the company’s Active Cosmetics Division into a worldwide force before moving to New York in 2005 and taking the reins of L’Oréal USA, which generated estimated sales last year of $5 billion.
The year after he arrived in the U.S., the department store world was rocked by the absorption of May Co. into Federated Department Stores Inc., which is now Macy’s Inc. That was followed by a long period of destocking among retailers. In the last year, recession morphed into a financial meltdown and the entire luxury segment took a major body blow.
However, Attal sees his four years in New York as a number of pluses and one long struggle — the crunching of luxury.