Barbara Lavernos

PARIS — Some executive changes are afoot in the top echelons of L’Oréal.

The world’s largest beauty group said Thursday that Barbara Lavernos, executive vice president, chief technologies and operations officer, will become president of a new department including research, innovation and technologies, beginning Feb. 1, 2021.

Her appointment comes after Laurent Attal, executive vice president of research and innovation, has chosen to retire, following more than 34 years with the company.

The news also comes at a highly pivotal time for L’Oréal, which is expected to announce this fall who will succeed Jean-Paul Agon as the group’s chief executive officer. The short list seems to have shrunk with Lavernos’ new appointment.

As was reported in WWD on Sept. 22, Nicolas Hieronimus, deputy ceo in charge of divisions, is widely believed – inside and outside of the company – to be the next in line, although industry sources say other contenders include Stéphane Rinderknech, president North America; Alexis Perakis-Valat, president Consumer Products Division, and Lavernos.

However, with Lavernos’ new nomination, she is probably not still among the frontrunners to become ceo.

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Attal began in his current position in 2010. He joined L’Oréal’s executive committee in 2002 and helmed the Active Cosmetics Division starting in 1998. Attal began working at L’Oréal in 1986. He had trained as a dermatologist and received an MBA from Insead.

“Under his leadership, the L’Oréal Research Division has made considerable progress, as much in promising scientific fields — the exposome, microbiome, regenerative cosmetics, etc. — as in the field of sustainable innovation, in particular through the development of green sciences,” said L’Oréal in a statement.

“I would like to thank Laurent Attal very warmly for his major contribution to the group over the years,” said Agon in the statement. “Laurent is a visionary, who has a profound impact wherever he leads, giving organizations a new strategic lease on life. I wish him much joy and happiness in his new life.

“To succeed him, I have chosen a woman of conviction, who has always addressed first the group’s collective objectives, demonstrating strategic vision on the one hand and leading her team to perfect operational execution on the other,” continued Agon.

“I have total confidence that Barbara Lavernos will apply again her great leadership skills and extraordinary energy to this new challenge, which is crucial for the future of L’Oréal,” he said. “I am convinced that the combination of R&I and technology will enable us to invent the beauty of the future: a beauty which relies on R&I — at the historic heart of our model based on science and innovation, now allied with new opportunities offered by technology. This new direction of research, innovation and technology will enable us to conquer new territories, increase brand innovations and strengthen our position as the world leader in beauty.”

At the end of 2018, Agon asked Lavernos to lead the “IT revolution,” with the goal of L’Oréal becoming the leader in “beauty tech.” In 2014, she was named chief operations officer and member of the group’s executive committee. In that role, Lavernos has been credited with starting all parts of the business on a digital transformation and having redesigned L’Oréal’s supply chain to increase the flexibility and agility as the channels change, especially with the e-commerce boom.

Lavernos headed the general management of travel retail for L’Oréal’s luxury division in 2012 and then the whole travel retail department in 2013. She became global chief procurement officer in 2004, after being director of the plant in Rambouillet, France, starting in 2000.

The executive, an engineer, joined L’Oréal in 1991.

Succeeding Lavernos as chief operations officer is Antoine Vanlaeys, who will also sit on the group’s executive committee.

Antoine Vanlaeys

Antoine Vanlaeys  Courtesy of L'Oréal

In 2016 he became director of operations for the Asia-Pacific region, now L’Oréal’s biggest geographic zone for business. He ramped up e-commerce there, especially in China, where online sales now generate more than half of the group’s revenues.

“He also strengthened the local production capacities and the supplier network, while being heavily involved in reinforcing the group’s commitments in terms of safety, quality and environment, notably through the emblematic project that enabled L’Oréal China to become carbon neutral in 2019,” said L’Oréal in the statement.

In 2011, Vanlaeys was named director of operations for L’Oréal Luxe. Prior to that, after joining L’Oréal in 2002, he held numerous roles within operations.

“Antoine is an extremely versatile manager, recognized by all for his strategic vision, his drive and his very strong ability to anticipate,” said Agon. “He is experienced in all areas of operations, in different zones and divisions. He understands the challenges of our business and will be able to provide his in-depth expertise regarding supply chain, which is one of the key challenges for the group in the future.

“He’s a great leader, who is most legitimate and has my complete confidence to lead the 20,000 employees in operations and support the group’s conquests,” said Agon.

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