Avon President Smith Resigns

Elizabeth Smith, president of Avon Products Inc., is stepping down Oct. 30 to pursue a job as a chief executive officer.

Avon Products Inc. president Elizabeth Smith, who played a key role in the beauty company’s turnaround effort, is resigning to seek a job as a chief executive officer.

This story first appeared in the September 18, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Citing the “commitment” of Andrea Jung “as a relatively young ceo to lead Avon for the foreseeable future, and with her full support, the time is right for me to seek the next step of my career outside of Avon,” Smith said.

Her resignation is effective Oct. 30. There are no plans to replace Smith, who joined Avon in January 2005.

The company said Thursday that the global business units that reported to Smith will now report directly to Jung, as they did before Smith’s appointment.

Jung said Smith was instrumental in strengthening Avon’s brand competitiveness and elevating its analytical and operational capacity. She also said Smith drove the global integration of the firm’s key business processes and technology.

Smith joined Avon as executive vice president and brand president. In August 2005, she took responsibility for leadership of North America. She was named president of Avon Products in September 2007, overseeing the company’s global marketing, supply chain and information technology business units. She subsequently oversaw global sales, as well.

“There’s only room for one ceo at a company, and if it’s Liz’s aspiration [to be a ceo], then it makes sense,” said BMO Capital analyst Connie Maneaty. “She’s leaving at a time when Avon is in good shape.”

In July, Avon said it would restructure and eliminate about 1,200 jobs in the next three to four years to save $200 million annually by 2012-13. In the first half of the fiscal year, Avon’s income was off 52.2 percent at $202.1 million, or 46 cents a diluted share, compared with $423.2 million, or 97 cents, a year ago. Total revenues decreased 11.2 percent to $4.65 billion from $5.24 billion. Declines were attributed to the continuing shifts in currency, which had a negative impact on reported results, along with about $90 million in charges for the restructuring initiative. Avon’s stock is up 32 percent this year.