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L’Oréal’s Carol Hamilton to Focus Full-time on Beauty Acquisitions

Hamilton has been involved with L'Oréal's acquisitions of Clarisonic, Urban Decay and It Cosmetics.

Carol Hamilton, formerly group president of the L’Oréal Luxe USA division, is now group president in charge of acquisitions.

In the newly created role, Hamilton has been tapped to oversee acquisitions across all of beauty — something she sees as increasingly important given the market’s shifting landscape.

“As I was thinking about this and discussing it with management, it became more and more clear that there was this opportunity to really look at acquisitions from a helicopter view, given the blurring of the channels,” Hamilton said. “Today, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a brand is luxury or mass.”

The role includes scouting, courting and preparing for brand acquisitions in the U.S. across all L’Oréal divisions. It’s an extension of work Hamilton has already been doing — she was instrumental in the acquisitions of Clarisonic, Urban Decay, the Proenza Schouler license and It Cosmetics, and helped integrate those brands into L’Oréal.

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“Carol’s ability to identify upcoming brands, spot the trends and connect and bond with founders as well as her strong business intuition will be an incredible asset for L’Oréal USA in its acquisition strategy,” wrote L’Oréal USA chief executive Frédéric Rozé in a memo to staff.

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Hamilton will focus on U.S. brands. Post acquisition, she will remain involved as a mentor to the founders, she said.

“My scope is to focus on the American beauty landscape, but with an eye toward the ability to internationalize them,” Hamilton said. “It’s where I can add the most value to the group.…I’ve always had a particular affinity for meeting founders.”

L'Oréal's Carol Hamilton to Focus Full-time
Jamie Kern Lima with Carol Hamilton

In the case of It Cosmetics, which L’Oréal paid $1.2 billion for in 2016, Hamilton reached out to founder Jamie Kern Lima long before the company was formally for sale.

“I actually approached Jamie and got to know her over the years,” Hamilton said. “It went through several chapters, but finally both parties were able to agree on the strategic value of the acquisition — that took about three years.”

Going forward in her new day-to-day job, Hamilton will be looking to “find treasures that fill gaps” in L’Oréal’s portfolio, she said.

“What’s new in today’s beauty landscape is how fragmented the beauty market has become, and how important the indie brands are to the growth of the beauty landscape — that’s the key thing that makes this beauty market look different than how it did five years ago,” Hamilton said.

David Morgan, senior vice president of business development, will remain in charge of the financial part of the M&A process, including negotiations, relationships with venture capitalists and banks and other duties. Morgan also will continue to spearhead coordination of acquisitions with the corporate teams in Paris.

Hamilton and Morgan report to Rozé, as well as Philippe Cornu in Paris.

In recent years, L’Oréal has made a series of acquisitions, including Clarisonic, Urban Decay and It Cosmetics. In addition to adding a prestige color brand to L’Oréal’s portfolio, buying It Cosmetics gave the business access to a new distribution channel — QVC. The beauty giant’s acquisitions have all built the company up in key places — Clarisonic added devices, while Urban Decay added a fast-growing prestige color brand and increased access to specialty retail, like Sephora and Ulta Beauty. L’Oréal has also built up its active cosmetics division, buying CeraVe, AcneFree and Ambi in early 2017. That division, as well as Luxe, were key drivers of the 6.3 percent sales growth that L’Oréal posted for the first half of the year.

Hamilton has been with L’Oréal USA since 1984. In addition to her main jobs, she started a handful of the company’s charitable initiatives, including L’Oréal’s Women or Worth program. She also serves on several boards, including the board of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the National Board for the U.S. Fund for Unicef, and The Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board.

L’Oréal is not alone in its focus on M&A — the strategy is one that many beauty companies have leaned on, seeking growth as well as key learnings. Procter & Gamble, which sold off most of its beauty portfolio to Coty Inc. in 2016, recently returned to the beauty M&A world with deals for First Aid Beauty, Snowberry and Native. Unilever has also bulked up its beauty portfolio through the acquisitions of Ren, Dermalogica, Kate Somerville, Murad, Hourglass and Living Proof. The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. has added Too Faced, Becca and a handful of indie fragrance businesses, and Shiseido acquired Laura Mercier and several technology businesses.