Market reports were circulating Monday that Sally Susman has resigned as executive vice president of global communications at Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. to join global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a similar capacity.

Susman, who could not be reached for comment at press time, has been at Lauder for seven years. Initially reporting to chairman Leonard Lauder, Susman served under two chief executive officers — Fred Langhammer and William Lauder. During her tenure, the company weathered one of the worst periods in its history: the retail meltdown following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

While the beauty company is expected to undergo another change of command in March with the advent of Fabrizio Freda as president and chief operating officer, market sources speculate Susman’s move has more to do with a return to the public policy arena.

She is a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and was a backer of John Kerry in 2004. Previously, she worked at American Express, both in New York and London, for eight years. But in the prior nine years, Susman worked on Capitol Hill as a staffer on the Senate Commerce Committee and then was deputy assistant secretary of legislative affairs in the administration of Bill Clinton.

L’Oréal Buys Columbia Beauty

PARIS — L’Oréal USA has further tightened its grip on the U.S. professional products business with the acquisition of Columbia Beauty Supply, a professional beauty products distributor.

Terms of the deal to take over 100 percent of the firm, announced here Monday, were not disclosed.

Columbia Beauty Supply, based in Charlotte, N.C., generated around $60 million in sales last year. It supplies products to hair salons across four U.S. Southeastern states, according to L’Oréal.

The acquisition of Columbia Beauty Supply, which will become part of L’Oréal’s Professional Products Division, follows the French beauty giant’s acquisition of Maly’s in July and Beauty Alliance in April. Columbia Beauty Supply will be managed by Beauty Alliance of Clearwater, Fla.

“This acquisition demonstrates L’Oréal’s determination to offer a better service to U.S. hair salons,” L’Oréal said in a statement. Sources said buying distributors also helps L’Oréal build distribution after it pulled its products from the nation’s largest distributor, Beauty Systems Group’s distribution arm, in 2006, following a string of events ranging from BSG’s partnership with rival Procter & Gamble to a failed union between BSG parent Sally Beauty Holdings and L’Oréal.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Prior to the Columbia deal, analysts estimated that L’Oréal was about three-quarters of the way to reaching BSG’s annual sales figures. According to Alberto-Culver’s Annual report — the former parent of Sally Beauty Holdings — BSG generated $983 million in sales for 2006, but that number includes sales from more than 800 stores.
— Ellen Groves, with contributions from Andrea Nagel

P&G Files Trademark Suit

NEW YORK — The Procter & Gamble Co. filed a lawsuit against Blue Cross Labs for allegedly infringing on its Herbal Essences brand trade dress and trademarks.

According to legal documents, Blue Cross, a private label manufacturer, distributed shampoo and conditioner products called Herbal Passion to dollar stores that infringed on the look of P&G’s Herbal Essences line. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Cincinnati on Monday.

P&G said in a statement that the Herbal Essences packaging was introduced as part of the line’s relaunch in 2006.

“We believe this is a clear case of infringement designed to take advantage of consumer loyalty and business growth that P&G developed through the reinvention of its Herbal Essences brand,” Jim Johnson, legal officer for Procter & Gamble, stated. “This is a serious case of trade dress infringement, and we are asking the court to stop the distribution of these products to protect the equity and intellectual property of the Herbal Essences brand.”

Blue Cross could not be reached for comment by press time.
— Liza Casabona

Spa at Bluebird Launches

LONDON — Beauty buffs have a new nesting place here.

The Shop at Bluebird has opened the Spa at Bluebird, which features a 60-square-foot Ole Henriksen spa and a 100-square-foot retail area that showcases a tightly edited selection of niche fragrance and treatment products as well as a juice bar.

The space’s retail lineup includes Lostmarc’h, a Breton fragrance and toiletries line; Kaeline, an argon oil-based treatment brand, and Kali’s Pearl, a skin care line meant to meet the needs of today’s multiethnic society.

The spa is meant to bring visitors to the store, which is located on the storied King’s Road, the only Ole Henriksen-branded spa outside of Los Angeles.

Tucked into the back of the boutique, the three-room spa offers treatments including the 75-minute African Red Tea Body Cocktail, which is priced at 135 pounds, or $266.60 at current exchange.

Spa at Bluebird’s spa and retail space could generate between 250,000 pounds, or $493,752, and 500,000 pounds, or $987,505, in its first year.
— Brid Costello

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