PARIS — Four years after taking the helm of Lancôme International as president and growing its business by double digits, Youcef Nabi has stepped down from the post, a spokeswoman at the L’Oréal-owned label confirmed Monday.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The ubercreative executive — who signed on such high-profile faces as Julia Roberts, Penélope Cruz and Emma Watson; put Lancôme back on the fragrance firmament with La vie est belle, and was on the verge of launching the highly anticipated limited-edition makeup collection with Alber Elbaz later this month — made the decision to resign, the spokeswoman said.

Nabi could not be reached for comment Monday, and L’Oréal declined to elaborate on the circumstances behind the executive’s departure.

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The development immediately ignited a guessing game as to who might helm one of L’Oréal’s most coveted brands. The beauty giant trumpets the depths of its management talent and could promote from within.

Meanwhile, Nabi’s surprise exit puts an acclaimed beauty talent on the market — albeit with what is likely a noncompete clause.

It was unclear what prompted the executive to resign.

However, some sources suggested Nabi was unhappy after the recent major executive shift at L’Oréal. As reported, in May the French beauty giant announced that Nicolas Hieronimus would fill the newly created position of president of the Selective Division, overseeing the Luxury, Active Cosmetics, Professional Products and The Body Shop activities. Indeed, some had speculated prior to the reorganization that Nabi was next in line to be president of the Luxury division, a post that Hieronimus will maintain as well.

It is understood Nabi has been courted by other big beauty players, including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the parent of Parfums Christian Dior and Guerlain. One source suggested Nabi could also go to the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.

Nabi, who joined L’Oréal in 1994, arrived at Lancôme in July 2009 after serving for years as general manager of L’Oréal Paris International.

Among the executive’s first moves at Lancôme was to sign Roberts on as its global ambassador and revamp the label’s advertising campaign, with photographs shot by Mario Testino.

Numerous products were launched under Nabi, including Teint Miracle, Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector and Absolue L’Extrait skin care; Rouge in Love and Absolu Nu lipstick; Vernis in Love nail polish, and Hypnôse Doll Lashes mascara.

Most recently, Lancôme teamed with Elbaz for his first color cosmetics project. Called Hypnôse Show, it involves mascaras, eye palettes and false eyelashes with packaging decorated by the fashion designer with whimsical hearts, stars, dots and eyes.