By  on August 26, 2009

Astral Brands has named Jue Wong as chief executive officer in an attempt to lead the Atlanta-based company out of a restructuring phase and return it to sales growth.

Wong, who held executive posts at skin care firms Obagi Medical Products, Perricone MD and Murad before joining Astral Brands, replaces interim ceo Neil Minihane, who had been at the helm of Astral Brands since January. A restructuring specialist, Minihane explained last month he had been asked by the board to become ceo after the voluntary resignation of previous ceo and current board chairman Bob Cohen, who, with wife Christie Cohen, bought the company that would become Astral Brands for roughly $13 million in 1998.

Wong praised Minihane’s consolidation of the back offices at Astral Brand’s three brands — direct sales skin care brand Aloette, mineral cosmetics brand Pür Minerals and professional skin care brand CosMedix — as the catalyst for future expansion. “By bringing on an interim ceo with a focused directive to clean up the business and get discipline in place, you can actually help the brands fast track to faster growth,” said Wong. “I can focus on the business of growing the brands.”

For the next year, Wong emphasized her efforts will be concentrated on deepening the three brands’ penetration within their distribution networks. Aloette, for example, a direct sales brand that uses a franchise model and has about 40 franchises in North America, had sold products on infomercials and television shopping networks, but is now largely zeroing in on spreading via direct sales. “If we stay true to our heritage for each of the brands, plus the synergies we draw on, we can be very strong without compromising each of the brands’ integrity,” said Wong.

Robert Baker, chief marketing officer of Astral Brands, estimated that Aloette’s franchises only cover about 13 percent of the U.S. geographically, representing some 3 percent of the population. The brand, which rang up $60 million in annual revenues at its peak several years ago, saw a revenue decrease last year as Astral Brands was shifting back to concentrating on Aloette’s core direct sales strength, but Wong noted $60 million is where she wants “to take it back to.”

Pür Minerals and CosMedix are smaller than Aloette, and Astral Brands as a whole generated less than $100 million in sales last year. Pür Minerals, created by Astral Brands about eight years ago, is sold at Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada and domestically in PureBeauty/BeautyFirst and Ulta, where Baker said it tallied a 33 percent year-over-year sales increase earlier this month. He said CosMedix, which was purchased in 2003 by Astral Brands, experienced around 30 percent annual growth until the economic downturn last year, but has equaled last year’s sales for the past three months.

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