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ICI Names Knott Quest CEO, Lowers Quarterly Estimate

NEW YORK — Charles Knott has been named chairman and chief executive officer of fragrance supplier Quest International, succeeding Paul Drechsler, who resigned Tuesday after five years at the post.<br><br>Knott was formerly president and chief...

NEW YORK — Charles Knott has been named chairman and chief executive officer of fragrance supplier Quest International, succeeding Paul Drechsler, who resigned Tuesday after five years at the post.

Knott was formerly president and chief operating officer of National Starch, a subsidiary of London-based Imperial Chemical Industries Group, which is also Quest’s parent. Plans call for Knott to relocate to Quest’s headquarters in Naarden, The Netherlands, from the Bridgewater, N.J., headquarters of National Starch.

At the same time ICI said Drechsler was leaving the company, the group also announced expectations of lower profits for the first quarter. ICI stated it expected first-quarter “profit before taxation, exceptionals and goodwill amortization to be around $78.7 million in comparison with last year’s $103.9 million.” Dollar figures have been converted from the British pound at current exchange rates.

One of the principal factors impacting first-quarter performance was weakness in sales on the food side of Quest’s European business, ICI stated. This was primarily due to “production problems at its Naarden facility as a result of systems changes,” the company said.

Quest’s total 2002 food sales accounted for 60 percent of its revenues, which totaled $1.1 billion last year, or 12 percent of total group sales. The fragrance side of the business generated the remaining 40 percent of Quest’s sales. By comparison, National Starch had $2.9 billion in sales last year, generating 30 percent of ICI’s revenues. ICI’s other subsidiaries include ICI Paints and Uniqema — as well as businesses in India, Pakistan and Argentina, which fall within a subsidiary called Regional & Industrial Group.

In announcing the appointment of Knott, ICI ceo Brendan O’Neill said: “Charles has helped strengthen the operational efficiency of National Starch and I am certain that he will help improve the performance of the Quest business.”

Despite weaker sales on Quest’s food side, performance on the fragrance side paints a different picture. Damas C. Thoman, Quest’s president of fragrances for North America, said: “We’ve had tremendous growth in fine fragrance.” Recent fragrance launches that have included formulations from Quest include the red hot Glow by J.Lo; a scent from designer Lulu Guinness, and MAC Cosmetics’ MV1, MV2 and MV3 trio.