By  on January 3, 2012

PARIS — Jacques Levy, the former president and chief executive officer of Sephora, died on Jan. 1 after a long illness. He was 62.

Funeral services were held for him in Los Angeles on Monday.

Levy — who stepped down from his role at the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned perfumery chain in March 2011 — was named president and ceo of Sephora in late 2005.

For the two years before that, he held the title of president of Sephora Europe (a responsibility he took up again in 2009 and added to his role of Sephora president and ceo). In that position, Levy oversaw the perfumery chain’s operations in Asia, too.

Executives responded en masse to his passing.

“Jacques Levy was a formidable Sephora executive, charismatic, who developed, with success, this company that has become the leader of its sector,” said Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and chief executive officer.

“Jacques Levy realized the impossible by raising Sephora [up] as an international leader in cosmetics distribution,” continued Christian Courtin-Clarins, chairman of Groupe Clarins. “He was a hard man in negotiation but always fair and a man of his word, with a real vision and a lot of audacity.”

“Jacques was extremely talented, friendly, organized, with great intuition about retail and brands with potential success,” reminisced Philippe Benacin, chairman and ceo of Inter Parfums SA. “He did amazing work at Sephora — transforming the company into one of the largest fragrance and cosmetics retailers worldwide, if not the [largest] one. Jacques was also a close friend. We will miss him a lot.”

“During his years at the helm of Sephora, Jacques had an undeniable impact not only on the success of Sephora but on our entire industry,” said Cedric Prouvé, group president international at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “He was deeply appreciated for his intelligence and leadership by his team around the world and by many of us who had the privilege of doing business with him.”

“He was a brilliant man, curious about everything, the inventor of ‘retail-tainment’ in beauty,” added Youcef Nabi, president of Lancôme International, referring to the in-store thrill factor bolstered by novel, exclusive products and seductive services, for instance.

“[Jacques’] retail knowledge — second to none — his honest, transparent and straightforward personality, as well as his business vision, has always been of great inspiration and help for us all,” said Renato Semerari, president of Coty Beauty. “Sephora owes a lot of its success and leadership to Jacques, and Coty’s success in Sephora, too.

“I had the privilege of working very closely with Jacques during my two years at Sephora,” continued Semerari. “He has taught me everything about retail and a lot about leadership and management. He was very demanding, very enthusiastic, very energetic and inspiring. He has not only been my boss but also a mentor and a friend.”

Nadia Miller, La Prairie International’s vice president, brand development, called Levy “a man of global vision. He once said to me, ‘A brand has to be consistent and recognizable no matter if you are the wholesaler or retailer. It is the consumer finding us together that creates trust and leads to the purchase.’ ”

Under Levy, Sephora grew exponentially. When he joined the perfumery chain in 2003, it had about 400 European doors and 75 in the U.S. By Dec. 31, 2010, Sephora counted 673 stores in Europe, with 34 net new openings during the year, and 276 doors in North America. Worldwide, the perfumery chain had 1,070 stores, including 84 net openings at the end of 2010.

Sephora’s sales reportedly doubled during Levy’s seven-year tenure.

He joined LVMH from Staples International and prior to that held various executive positions at Disney. Levy also worked at Darty and Galeries Lafayette/Nouvelles Galeries.

Following his time at Sephora, Levy joined Guess as an adviser to Paul Marciano, a company founder.

Levy was awarded a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur and was inducted into the World Retail Hall of Fame.

He graduated from France’s Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales.

Levy is survived by a wife and three children.

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