By  on December 26, 2009

PARIS — Yves Rocher, founder of the eponymous French natural beauty company that he developed into an international powerhouse, died of a stroke on Saturday. He was 79.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid homage to Rocher, calling him a “great French industrialist, inventor of plant-based cosmetics and pioneer of catalogue sales,” in a statement published Saturday.

Rocher was born April 7, 1930, in La Gacilly, France. He started the first Yves Rocher production site there in 1958. To help sell his company’s first skin care cream, Rocher devised an innovative distribution system that laid the groundwork for catalogue sales of cosmetics in France. In 1969, he opened his first beauty center, on Paris’ Boulevard Haussmann.

Today, Groupe Yves Rocher has diversified holdings, including Daniel Jouvance, Dr. Pierre Ricaud, Petit Bateau and Stanhome. The company, which is 75 percent owned by the Rocher family, employs 15,000 people worldwide and sells its products in more than 20 countries.

Groupe Yves Rocher grows and harvests plants that are then used in the beauty products it manufactures and distributes through catalogues, stores, the Internet and door-to-door sellers. The firm has 40 million clients worldwide and generates annual revenues of over 2 billion euros, or $2.88 billion at current exchange.

Rocher served as the mayor of La Gacilly from 1962 to 2008. He is survived by his sons, Daniel and Jacques Rocher, as well as other family members, including his grandson, Bris Rocher, who is to become president of Groupe Yves Rocher. Bris Rocher has, since 2003, been the company’s vice president.

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