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Groupe Clarins Names CEO

Jonathan Zrihen, formerly company chief operating officer, took up the post on Thursday, succeeding Philip Shearer.

PARIS — There’s something old and something new at Groupe Clarins.

“Strategically, we are going to carry on what we have been doing, with one objective: to make Clarins the leading skin-care company in the world,” Christian Courtin-Clarins, president of the firm’s supervisory board, told WWD soon after Groupe Clarins revealed earlier on Thursday that it had nominated a new chief executive officer.

Jonathan Zrihen, formerly chief operating officer of the family-owned company, became its group ceo, succeeding Philip Shearer in the role.

Shearer had stepped down from his duties. The executive is said to have retired, and that he has some personal projects in view, including teaching at a university.

“After a long and successful career, he expressed the wish to get closer to his children back in the USA,” Clarins stated. “We are most grateful for the work he achieved as well as his full commitment toward the Clarins Group for all these years.”

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Shearer could not be reached for comment.

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Formerly a group president at The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., he joined Groupe Clarins in 2008, shortly before the Paris-based company went private.

“He played a key role during the company delisting and carried out many necessary economic and social changes, both abroad and in France,” the company said in a statement.

Shearer is credited with having widely contributed to Groupe Clarins’ development, positing the firm among the main players in the fragrance and cosmetics industry.

In WWD Beauty Inc.’s most recent Top 100 ranking of beauty manufacturers, the company took the 27th spot with estimated sales for 2014 of 1.31 billion euros, or $1.74 billion at average exchange, up 1.2 percent year-on-year.

While saluting the contributions made by Shearer, Zrihen told WWD in a separate interview: “He made us make a lot of important choices, like investing more heavily in China, building up the digital capability and strengthening the U.S. business.” Zrihen also pointed out that Shearer “had such a strong knowledge of international distribution.” [Also] he helped me in the U.S.”

Today, Groupe Clarins has pole position in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, estimated Courtin-Clarins.

“We are close in Canada, and we are ranked more or less number five in Asia — in most of the countries,” he said. “Where we still have a lot to do is the United States.

“We have been gaining market share every year, I would say, for the last 20 years,” continued Courtin-Clarins.

In 2014, the company had lassoed 2.2 percent of the world’s premium beauty and personal care sales and a 1.2 percent stake of the fragrance market, according to Euromonitor International.

“We do it in our way, and I want to keep it that way,” Courtin-Clarins said. “What is very important is that there is a very ethical and human system in the Clarins Group.”

He stressed the importance of educating staff.

“We are going to have extremely well-trained beauty advisers who will recommend exactly what the skin of the customer needs, and thanks to the quality of the products they will be satisfied with the results. Because they know that we are a company [that’s a] citizen of the world, they will be our best ambassador,” Courtin-Clarins said. “We have to reinforce that as a priority.”

The executive added: “It’s a great opportunity to give to Jonathan a position that in my eyes is totally deserved.”

Courtin-Clarins’ father and Groupe Clarins’ founder Jacques Courtin-Clarins had suggested that Zrihen be hired as a marketing intern originally in the Paris office in 1993.

He had always been a rising star at the company. After entering the international division, the executive was sent on assignment to Australia, where he became the national sales administrator in November 1994. Zrihen moved back to the Paris office in 1996 as international area director. He was named vice president of Asia-Pacific in 1999, where the executive created an Asian regional bureau, and became president of Clarins Canada in 2004.

Zrihen moved to New York in July 2006 as president and ceo of Clarins Group USA, and his responsibilities spread to all of North America in 2009. Four years later, he took over the Americas business.

In February, he was named its chief operating officer — a position newly created for the executive by Christian Courtin-Clarins and his brother Olivier Courtin-Clarins, executive director of Groupe Clarins and member of the board. Zrihen also joined the firm’s executive committee at the time. His duties involved in that role were previously handled by Shearer as global ceo. Zrihen reported to Shearer and Olivier Courtin-Clarins.

“Jonathan will commit his extensive knowledge of countries and brands to the Clarins Group, building upon his perfect adaptability to the practices and culture of the group,” the company stated.

“He spent his career with us,” said Christian Courtin-Clarins, adding that Zrihen will work with his brother.

“So in one way there is continuity, because both of them have been working in the company for a long time,” explained the executive, who said on the other hand somewhat new ideas can come with a new manager.

The new ceo sketched his own vision, which rests on the bedrock of Groupe Clarins’ culture of customer collaboration. Noting that the past eras of first manufacturing and then distribution have given way to time of consumer interaction via the digital age.

He said: “We are investing strongly in CRM [Consumer Relations Management]” in building a global digital platform. Zrihen recalled how the company’s founder used to say: “Speak to the woman, not the consumer.”

At the same time, innovation remains the driver in skin care, Clarins’ core business.

Speaking of luxury consumers, Zrihen noted: “People want to know the material [in the jar], not just the brand.”

Clarins has been renovating its research-and-development capability by opening an Asian R&D center in Singapore. His overall plan is to stress both R&D and digital, all the while linking the two drivers to a “consumer-centric approach.”

As part of this, he also referred to plans to tie fragrance launches to the three main brands that the company owns — Clarins, Thierry Mugler and Azzaro.

Zrihen also put a priority on “balancing out the U.S. business” and strengthening Clarins in Asia.

These days the company has other management shifts afoot.

A new chief financial officer is about to be revealed, according to Courtin-Clarins. And Henri du Masle has been appointed general manager for France, following running the company’s operations in Italy.

Also on Thursday, Virginie Courtin-Clarins and Prisca Courtin-Clarins, the daughters of Christian Courtin-Clarins, and his brother, who oversee the Thierry Mugler fashion brand and the spa and retail development, respectively, were named to the Groupe Clarins board of directors.

“We want them to be involved in the strategy, to understand everything that’s happened,” Courtin-Clarins said. “Because today they are doing extremely well in their territories, but as future leaders, we need them to be involved in all the details.”