By  on June 16, 1994

PARIS -- German cosmetics giant Wella AG said Wednesday it has acquired "over 90 percent" of the Cologne, Germany-based Muelhens perfume concern.

The announcement came at the annual shareholders' meeting at Wella's Darmstadt, Germany, headquarters. Wella termed the deal "the most important one in the history of the group."

The purchase price was not disclosed, but Wella and Muelhens both said the sale was a friendly one based on mutual interests. Peter Zuhlsdorff, chairman of Wella, told WWD the transaction was significant in terms of the brands acquired, especially 4711, as well as the size of the business acquired.

Last year, Muelhens had worldwide sales of $370 million (620 million marks) at current exchange rates, mainly in Europe.

The main goal of the acquisition is to boost Wella's prestige cosmetics and fragrance businesses, said Zuhlsdorff. Wella owns the Rene Garraud hair care line, distributed mainly through beauty salons, as well as the Paris-based Rochas fragrance, cosmetics and couture house. Muelhens makes and distributes the Gabriella Sabatini and Priscilla Presley fragrances, among others. It also owns the worldwide license for Gucci fragrances and the Charles Jourdan scent. The French Payot cosmetics line is also part of Muelhens.

Zuhlsdorff confirmed that Wella had once considered selling off the Rochas business. In Paris, it was widely rumored that Rochas's former president, Laurent Normand, stepped down last year because he was unable to find a buyer. Zuhlsdorff said Normand left Rochas amicably.

Now, following the appointment of Edda Wendig last year as Normand's replacement, Wella is committed to building a presence in the middle market with brands like Sabatini, and strengthening its prestige positioning by adding a line like Gucci to its roster, Zuhlsdorff explained.

Besides getting into different levels of the cosmetics business, Wella will get into new markets. Rochas's market strengths are France and Spain, while Muelhens is strong in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. Brands from both companies could tap into each other's distribution, Zuhlsdorff noted.

Until now, Muelhens has been a privately held company owned by two branches of the Muelhens family.

Lothrl Hawel will remain as managing director of Muelhens, running day-to-day operations. He will report directly to Heiner Gurtler, a Wella board member responsible for the group's cosmetic and fragrance activities.

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