By  on September 28, 2007

NEW YORK — David Kennedy freely admits that he likes to solve problems, sometimes to a fault.

A year ago, Kennedy's aptitude for problem-solving was put to a severe test when he was appointed chief executive officer of Revlon Inc., after his predecessor, Jack Stahl, was abruptly ousted following a series of key strategies that backfired — the most painful of which was the introduction of Vital Radiance, a premium-priced cosmetics brand for older women that failed to gain traction at retail.

Revlon's primary owner and ceo of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., Ronald Perelman, swiftly orchestrated the management shake-up, prompted by an acceleration of market share erosion of Revlon.

In the last year, Kennedy has been attempting to usher in a rebound by instituting a launch program that mandates each item in the portfolio be backed by a succession of new products and marketing over a planned period of time.

The strategy, while seemingly simple on the surface, marks a decisive departure from Revlon's former habit of heralding one-hit wonders that once introduced were largely forgotten about within a year. The new strategy is designed to bring sustainability and ultimately growth to the troubled beauty firm.

Kennedy, who prior to taking over the helm served as Revlon's chief financial officer, was acutely aware of the company's mounting challenges from that vantage point. Once promoted to the top spot last fall, he took bold and immediate action to reverse course.

A week into his new post as ceo, Kennedy axed Vital Radiance, then spent the year pulling the floundering cosmetics line from retailers' display walls and refocusing the spotlight on Revlon, the firm's marquee brand. He also cut Revlon's staff by more than 250 employees, dissolving key positions, including the roles of ousted executive vice president and chief marketing officer Stephanie Klein Peponis — who was the most ardent proponent of Vital Radiance, according to several sources close to the situation. He also eliminated the role of former chief creative officer Rochelle Udell, who left in the shake-up.

Reflecting on his decision to pull the plug on Vital Radiance, Kennedy said, "We had a decision to make about whether we would continue to spend and invest behind Vital. At that time we were looking at projections that would have had us losing money on it for at least two more years. So we made a decision. We could have stayed in it. We had enough space on the [display] wall, but at the same time it would have been a drain on the company. We decided to cut our losses on that brand and, in effect, the corollary of that decision was to refocus the company on Revlon color cosmetics."

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