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Scent of a Shakeup: Baxter Said Leaving Lauder for LVMH

Pamela Baxter, president of Estée Lauder’s specialty group, is said to be taking a top job at LVMH, overseeing its U.S. beauty units.

Pamela Baxter

Pamela Baxter

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Pamela Baxter, president of Estée Lauder’s specialty group worldwide, is said to be leaving Lauder to take a top job at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, overseeing the luxury goods empire’s U.S. beauty divisions, according to reports circulating in the market Thursday, as speculation grows about further management changes.

Camille McDonald, U.S. president for LVMH’s Guerlain and Givenchy beauty divisions, is reportedly staying in her post, despite earlier rumors to the contrary. However, questions remain about McDonald’s future with LVMH. In addition, it is not clear what plans Bernard Potier, president of Christian Dior Perfumes Inc., may have when his contract reportedly expires in November.

A spokesman of LVMH had no comment. Neither did McDonald. A spokeswoman for Dior also declined comment. Patrick Choel, president of LVMH Fragrances and Cosmetics worldwide, could not be reached.

Baxter’s post at LVMH is newly created and has been described by sources as a U.S. beauty presidency. It is a concept that reportedly has been discussed before, back in the mid-Nineties. It now is being viewed by some market observers as a positive attempt by LVMH to strengthen and put more emphasis on the U.S. beauty business within the company.

The move comes at a time when many companies are looking for answers. After a period of intense expansion and aggressive acquisitions beginning in the late Nineties, particularly of indie brands, LVMH, along with other companies, was faced with a prolonged slump in the department store beauty market. LVMH reportedly shared the pain of flagging profitability in a number of its businesses.

Within the last year, LVMH has been refocusing on its core beauty brands, such as Christian Dior, with an eye toward divesting the less-essential assets. It sold Hard Candy and Urban Decay for a combined price of $1 million, with the possibility of the amount varying over three years due to a price index clause, in December 2002.

This past May, LVMH dismantled its American Designer Fragrances unit by selling the Michael Kors license and fragrance business to Lauder and then divesting the Marc Jacobs and Kenneth Cole businesses to the Lancaster division of Coty, for an estimated combined sale price of $70 million for all three. And speculation has surfaced recently that Bliss, and to a lesser extent, Fresh, are actively seeking buyers.
The American Designer Fragrances unit, a division of Parfums Givenchy Inc., spawned under McDonald’s direction in 1999. Within three years, McDonald built a thriving fragrance business, with a projected global wholesale volume of $120 million. There was a chance of breaking even by yearend.

However, the sale of the brands this spring stripped back McDonald’s duties to management of Guerlain and Givenchy in the U.S. At the time, there was speculation in the market that McDonald would take a job at Lauder, Coty or L’Oréal. Rumors then began to grow that she would leave LVMH when the American Designer Fragrances unit was shut down. McDonald has been with LVMH since early 1998, after spending nearly a year at Chanel Beaute as senior vice president of sales. Prior to that, she was with Cosmair USA, now called L’Oréal USA, for 12 years, mostly as head of marketing in the Ralph Lauren Fragrances Division.

Baxter assumed her current role at Lauder in a reorganization of the company’s upper management in May 2001. Prior to her appointment as president, specialty group worldwide for Lauder, she served as general manager of Aramis and Tommy Hilfiger, and also assisted with the leadership of the La Mer, Jo Malone, Donna Karan Cosmetics and Kate Spade brands for Lauder. In her current role, she continues to have responsibility for the worldwide development of Prescriptives, La Mer, Jo Malone and Kate Spade Beauty.

Baxter joined Aramis in California as an account representative in 1981. She transferred to New York in 1990 to lead the development of the Tuscany per Donna fragrance, which was launched in 1993. The following year, she was named vice president of marketing for Aramis, and became the brand’s national sales manager in 1995. She was named to her post as general manager of Aramis and Tommy Hilfiger in 1997.
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