By  on June 1, 2009

Frederic Roze is not one to be easily intimidated by adversity.

On July 1, he will take the helm of L’Oréal USA, succeeding Laurent Attal, who is being promoted back to Paris headquarters to head the company’s immense research and development effort.

When asked what in his résumé prepares him to tackle the recession-wracked North American beauty market, he points to his three-year stint in post–Soviet Russia in the early Nineties, building L’Oréal’s Consumer Products Division from the ground up. It was a wild time, but the 47-year-old Rozé remembers it as “a fantastic experience,” but clearly not without its challenges. “First year, more than 4,000 percent infl ation. We built a very strong team,” he says. “And last year, in 2008, Russia was still ahead of China” when comparing L’Oréal’s consumer products businesses in both countries.

The old Soviet system had created a creaking retail distribution network consisting of stores such as GUM. Rozé describes the market then as “a white sheet of paper. Everybody was on the same starting line. The game was how to build your brands very quickly, profitably, because the previous system had collapsed totally.”

He joined L’Oréal in 1986 and became general manger of the Consumer Products Division of L’Oréal Russia. Then, in 1996, he was named general manager of Gemey France. Later, as general manager of L’Oréal Argentina, Rozé is credited with orchestrating the recovery of the business, despite a national financial debacle. He transferred to Spain in 2002, in charge of both the Consumer Products and Professional Products Divisions there. According to the company, he boosted market share in many categories. In 2004, Rozé became director of the Consumer Products Division for Western Europe, then his responsibilities spread over the entire continent.

Rozé also points out that his background equips him to handle the U.S. subsidiary with its diversity of large businesses because his previous positions required him to oversee more than the company’s mass market brands. In Argentina, he was in charge of all divisions, and in Spain he also ran “a very strong” salon professional products division. “So I know very well the business model of the luxury, the active cosmetic and the professional divisions on top of the consumer division,” he says, adding that, in his European assignment, he was in charge of businesses in 30 countries. “The [Consumer Products Division] in fact is distributed in department stores, in some perfumeries, in hypermarkets, supermarkets and some pharmacies. I know pretty well all the channels of distribution that I will have to work with in the U.S.”

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