Pierre Fabre

The impact of the death of the founder and president of the Laboratoires Pierre Fabre reverberated across France over the weekend.

PARIS — Pierre Fabre, who died Saturday in Lavaur, France, at the age of 87, built his pharmaceutical and cosmetics business into an international powerhouse.

This story first appeared in the July 22, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The impact of the death Fabre, who was the founder and president of the Laboratoires Pierre Fabre, reverberated across France.

French President François Hollande said that France had lost “an exceptional entrepreneur,” adding, “He was constantly in advance of his time, never ceasing to innovate, invent, invest.”

Arnaud Montebourg, the nation’s Minister of Industrial Renewal, stated that with Fabre’s death, “France loses a captain of industry of great talent.”

Indeed, Fabre’s story was remarkable. A pharmacist by training, he purchased a pharmacy in Castres, France, in 1951. Ten years later, Fabre created his namesake laboratories there, and in 1965 started up activities in dermo-cosmetics with the purchase of the Klorane brand. Ducray was acquired in 1969.

Some other key developments in the company’s beauty business included its 1974 purchase of a hydrotherapy station in France’s Avène-les-Bains, and the 1990 launch of the Avène brand. Today, Avène products are sold in more than 100 countries, and the label ranks first among cosmetics brands sold in European pharmacies. It is also successful in countries such as Japan — through a joint venture with Shiseido — and China.

Among Laboratoires Pierre Fabre’s other dermo-cosmetics holdings are Galénic, René Furterer and A-Derma. The firm is market leader in the skin- and hair-care categories in France’s pharmacy channel.

Fabre created his company’s foundation in 1999. Through Pierre Fabre Participations, it now holds 65 percent of Pierre Fabre SA. Then in 2005, the firm’s capital was open to employees, of which there are now about 10,000.

Fifty-two years after its start, Laboratoires Pierre Fabre is France’s third-largest pharmaceutical company. Its revenues last year reached 1.98 billion euros, or $2.54 billion at average exchange, with 53 percent from cosmetics and the balance from pharmaceuticals. Fifty-four percent of the company’s sales were generated abroad.

Fabre, a longtime rugby buff, was also the owner of the Castres Olympique team.

He is survived by nephews, according to a company spokeswoman. She added a funeral for Fabre will be held on Wednesday but did not release further details.

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