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Beauty Beat: Williams Tapped for Flirt Guest Role … Kanebo Bidding Process Under Way … Pop Artist Romero Britto Does Sea-Inspired Scent

You could say that it’s game, set, Flirt for tennis whiz Serena Williams.

Williams Tapped for Flirt Guest Role
NEW YORK — You could say that it’s game, set, Flirt for tennis whiz Serena Williams.

The tennis star has been named a guest creator for Flirt, the color-driven line launched last summer by the Estée Lauder Cos.’ BeautyBank division.

Unlike previous spokeswomen Michelle Branch and Mila Kunis, both of whom served for a season, the tennis whiz will serve as the brand’s face for a year. Like Branch and Kunis, she will create color cosmetics for the brand during her tenure; the first Williams-designed products will roll out in February at select Kohl’s Department Store doors.

Serena and her sister, Venus, had previously appeared in print and TV ads promoting products from Avon Products Inc.

Serena Williams will be in New York later this week for the U.S. Open and will appear at a press conference Thursday at Chelsea Piers, officially unveiling the deal. But while she has been sidelined from competitive tennis in the last several weeks due to an ankle injury, she hasn’t been sitting still. Both sisters taped a reality TV show based on their lives on ABC Family, which began airing in July. As well, a line of activewear Serena Williams designed with Nike began selling this spring, and she launched an apparel line, Aneres — Serena spelled backward — last fall.
— Julie Naughton

Kanebo Bidding Process Under Way
TOKYO — About 10 companies — including L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson, but not Shiseido — have expressed interest in Kanebo and Kanebo Cosmetics, according to sources.

The Industrial Revitalization Corp. of Japan, or IRJC, is also said to have received first-round bids from Kao, Kose, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and some individual Japanese investors.

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The next round of bids is expected at the end of September and the final decision will be made later this year. It is understood that new players can bid in alliance with the initial group.

Kanebo’s cosmetics operation, which generated $1.9 billion, or 204 billion yen at current exchange, for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2004, was spun off from the heavily indebted firm last year under a restructuring plan with the help of IRJC.

Shiseido had announced its interest in bidding, but later withdrew from the competition. “There is not much merit for Shiseido to buy Kanebo,” said one industry source, who requested anonymity.

Kose is interested only in buying the cosmetics section. Meanwhile, some of the firms are believed to have entered bids simply to gain information about Kanebo and its competitors. Asked about L’Oréal’s interest, a company spokeswoman in Paris declined all comment.

Kanebo is expected to fetch as much as $4 billion, industry sources estimate.

Meanwhile, a number of Kanebo’s former executives, including former president Takashi Hoashi, were arrested recently in connection with an accounting scandal involving $2 billion, or 215 billion yen. Kanebo covered the net losses from the years between fiscal 1996 to 2004. Recently, Kanebo revised financial statements for the past five fiscal years.

“The prosecution is not a positive factor for the talk with applicants,” noted Hideo Sato, a beauty business consultant. “But it is necessary to get through this moment to revitalize the brand with a new partner.”

Kanebo is now concentrating on home products, pharmaceutical goods and foods. “Kanebo is currently making steady efforts towards the realization of its business revitalization plan,” the IRJC commented in a statement earlier this year.
— Koji Hirano

Pop Artist Romero Britto Does Sea-Inspired Scent
DALLAS — Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto has become an iconic favorite of presidents and celebrities with his colorful, whimsical and pricy paintings of flowers, dogs, hearts and butterflies — collectors include Bill Clinton, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez and Michael Jordan.

Additionally, designers Nicole Miller, Enrico Coveri and Rosa Cha reportedly have used Romero’s works as prints or color story inspirations.

Now, the Miami Beach-based Britto is spreading his creative and sensory wings with a new women’s fragrance, called Britto Azul, which is set to launch in November. Britto Azul joins his popular two-year-old women’s and men’s signature fragrance collection that’s a big hit at merchants such as Neiman Marcus Direct, among others. The Romero Britto fragrance lineup is licensed to Genesis International Marketing Corp. of Miami.

The artist said Britto Azul (azul is Spanish for “blue”) was inspired by the beauty of a sunny South Beach afternoon and the ocean. Britto Azul features top notes of orange sorbet and lemoncello, a heart of apple blossom and ginger and a drydown of white musk and white birch.

Retail prices have been set at $45 for the 1.4-oz. eau de parfum and at $65 for the 2.5-oz. edp. Britto designed the packaging as well as the light blue frosted glass bottle.

Britto also launched a women’s sterling silver jewelry collection at Bloomingdale’s in Miami in March and he has a line of dinnerware, scarves, ties and handbags that is available for sale at Britto Central, his popular Miami Beach gallery, or at

Industry sources speculated that Britto’s newest scent could garner first-year retail sales volume of at least $1 million.
— Rusty Williamson