A new day is dawning at Coty. Again.
One month after being named chief executive officer of Coty Inc., Peter Harf is moving up to the role of executive chairman.
Sue Y. Nabi, a former L’Oréal executive and most recently the founder of Orveda skin care, has been named ceo, effective Sept. 1. Nabi is the business’ sixth ceo since Coty acquired Procter & Gamble’s beauty brands five years ago for $12.5 billion. Critically, she is also the only one with significant beauty experience.
During her 20-year tenure at L’Oréal, Nabi was president both of L’Oréal Paris and Lancôme, giving her cross-channel and cross-category experience that Coty has heretofore lacked.
Nabi will also be one of only two female ceo’s of a top 10 beauty manufacturer. At L’Oréal, she went by Youcef, and she openly transitioned during her time leading both brands.
“Sue is the greatest rock star in the business,” said Harf. “She is a fantastic ceo, entrepreneur and a sign of inspiration to young people of what’s possible.”
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The announcement caps a busy week for Coty, which announced on Monday a $200 million deal for 20 percent of Kim Kardashian West’s beauty business, KKW, and a concurrent licensing deal with the social media superstar to produce skin-, hair- and personal-care and nail products.
It was only on June 1 that Harf, a founding partner of Coty’s majority owner JAB, became ceo, stepping in for Pierre Denis, the former ceo of Jimmy Choo who was slated to take the reins in early June. At the time, Coty said in a statement that Harf’s appointment would “instill urgency and deliver results.”
Company insiders said Harf and Nabi met about six weeks ago after an introduction by a mutual friend who thought Nabi might be useful in an advisory capacity. In her new role, Nabi will oversee all brand and licensing decisions, including the turnaround of CoverGirl, the expansion of the KKW and Kylie Cosmetics businesses and talent acquisition and retention.
A Coty insider said the three priorities as Nabi takes the helm are “first, to come in and steady the boat, and attract the best talent in the industry.” Second, the company is looking to Nabi to leverage her experience with the brands that need her attention the most in the portfolio and “fix them quickly,” particularly CoverGirl.
Finally, Coty is looking to Nabi to reinforce its relationships with its licensees, including Kardashian West and Jenner, but also fragrance licensees like Tiffany, Kering, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss. This, too, has been a point of contention for Coty with some licensees. Kering’s ceo François-Henri Pinault has been particularly vocal about his frustration with Coty’s pace in developing the Gucci beauty business.
Nabi’s track record at L’Oréal bodes well for Coty. She was the youngest president in the company’s history, and is credited with driving double-digit sales growth in makeup and skin care while helming Lancôme, as well as launching the blockbuster fragrance La Vie Est Belle and signing Julia Roberts as its face.
She left L’Oréal in 2013, and launched the vegan skin-care brand Orveda in 2017 with cofounder Nicholas Vu. “I discovered the whole world outside of big companies, a whole world of small brands and new business models,” she said when the brand launched, explaining that the idea was to “really build something that has nothing to do with what exists today and at the same time be disruptive in a way that is very unique.”
Vu will continue to run Orveda independently of Nabi. The brand is sold on its own web site and on Net-a-porter, as well as in spas in the U.K., France, the U.S., Switzerland, Mexico, Germany and Italy.
Coty insiders said Harf is very energized by Nabi’s appointment, and has vowed to give her the time and support she needs to meaningfully transform the business. “They believe this is going to change the company and the narrative, and make Coty a player in the cosmetics industry.”