The financial community voiced mild surprise at the early timing of the appointment of incoming Coty Inc. chief executive officer, Camillo Pane, while acknowledging his strong track record. Even though his appointment won’t take effect until after the Procter & Gamble deal closes in October, the announcement that Bart Becht would hand over the ceo reins cause some uncertainty on the street.
The beauty firm announced on Thursday that Pane would take over after Coty closes on the Procter & Gamble beauty brands, which is expected to happen in October.
It is difficult to imagine Pane’s specific plans as Coty declined to make either he and chairman and interim ceo Becht available for comment. Several sources speculated that the hire would give Becht more time to manage the business on a strategic level instead of focusing on day-to-day operations, and that Pane’s experience in mass distribution would be a plus. The firm’s stock closed slightly down, at $26.62.
“We think Coty shares underperform on today’s announcement,” said Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan in an analyst note. “Becht has been a key part of the bull thesis on Coty shares, and today’s announcement clearly dislodges that pillar, despite his remaining chairman. That said, at current levels, Coty shares trade at a discount to many [home and personal-care] peers, and we believe in 12 months deal-related margin and cash flow benefits will become more evident. Longer term, we anticipate increasingly larger scale M&A and a gradual improvement in revenue growth, resulting in part from heightened investment and funded by productivity initiatives. Relatedly, at Reckitt [Benckiser], Mr. Pane oversaw the largest, fastest-growing business, which outperformed the industry during his tenure.”
Before he joined Coty in 2015, Pane spent 20 years at Reckitt, most recently as head of global health and personal care. There, he played a key role in the business’ move into consumer health.
“Reckitt was notorious for having really tired and sleepy brands,” said Martin Okner, managing director at SHM Corporate Navigators. “And he was able to reignite corporate growth in pretty much the entire portfolio.”
“He did a brilliant job at initiating something called Project Supercharge…which focused on innovation and activating their core brands,” Okner added. That program “focused on key business drivers for growth and brand health over time. It’s exactly what Coty needs right now.”
In his current role, Pane serves as executive vice president of Coty’s category development and is a member of the Coty executive committee. Coty said the plan is for Becht to focus on integrating the P&G brands, while Pane will work toward revenue growth. During his time at Coty, Pane has led development of the company’s portfolio, category and brand strategies, beauty brand equities and innovation pipeline.
“He has an excellent track record of accelerating growth, improving business performance and strengthening capabilities to create a best-in-class organization,” Becht said in a statement. “At Coty, he has already shown himself to be a very strong leader with an intense drive and passion to make Coty the new global challenger in beauty for the benefit of both consumers and shareholders alike.”
“The new Coty will have a strong portfolio of consumer-loved beauty brands with excellent potential and a highly experienced management team, which it will be my privilege to lead,” Pane said in a statement.
Coty has made a handful of employee appointments as it prepares to close the P&G deal. In May, it tapped Wella U.K. and Ireland managing director Daniel Minney as general manager for the consumer beauty division, and Alexis Vaganay from BIC as general manager of luxury. Andrew Kelsall has also been named general manager of professional beauty. Coty is also adding Shannon Curtin, who boasts experience at Wal-Mart and Walgreens, on board as senior vice president North America for Coty consumer beauty. Simona Cattaneo, who was Burberry’s head of beauty, will take over as chief marketing officer.
Coty announced in July 2015 that it would acquire a group of beauty brands from P&G for $12.5 billion. To adjust to the slew of incoming brands, the company is in the process of reorganizing into three segments: Coty Consumer Beauty, which will house color cosmetics, retail hair coloring and styling products, plus mass-market body care; Coty Professional Beauty, which will service the hair and nail salon industries; and Coty Luxury Beauty, which will house prestige fragrance and skin care.
Coty has previously made several appointments under new division heads Edgar Huber, who will lead the Coty luxury division, Sylvie Moreau, who will head up the professional division, and Esi Eggelston Bracey, who will run the consumer beauty division.
“[Pane]’s got his work cut out for him. He’s going to need a good 18 months to get the core stabilized,” Okner said. “I don’t think they should distract themselves with innovation during this time period. They have potential to be a dominant player if they manage their core properly.”