By  on October 18, 2012

Bernd Beetz, former chief executive officer of Coty Inc., accepted the Fragrance Foundation’s Circle of Champions award last week with grace and more than a little good humor.

He smiled through all the jokes about his German accent and ended the evening by saluting the staff he built over the decade he spent turning Coty into a global fragrance powerhouse. He said that despite his accent, his organization always performed just as he’d hoped, “despite not being able to understand me.”

“I never had to push,” Beetz said. He also thanked the crowd that packed the St. Regis Roof of the St. Regis Hotel last Thursday. “I memorized all your names because we are going to be friends for life,” he said with a grin.

The tenor of the evening was set early by a previous Circle of Champions recipient, Camille McDonald, who is president of brand development and merchandising at Bath & Body Works. She described Beetz as the man who “reinvented an entire business model for licensed businesses” and “jump-started an entire category that was stagnating.”

Beetz’s role in reinventing the celebrity fragrance category was also alluded to during the evening. But his leadership skills was what came through perhaps the strongest. Two of his closest team members — Steve Mormoris, senior vice president of global marketing for Coty Beauty, and Catherine Walsh, senior vice president of American fragrances for Coty Prestige — recollected their first memories of him when they all started at Coty together. They described his visionary ability, his entrepreneurial spirit, his leadership, his team building and joked about some of his misadventures with the English language.

Then Walsh turned serious, saying, “what most people don’t know is that you are a nomad, a gypsy — in the most positive sense. It is what makes you unique.” She later added, “I hope your future journeys are awesome.”

Cristina Carlino, the founder of Philosophy, talked about the relationship that grew out of Beetz buying the company she founded. “I never had anyone mentor me the way you did,” she concluded.

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