ARDEN’S ENGLAND PASSES THE REINS TO MIDWOOD
Byline: Alev Aktar
NEW YORK — Peter England, president and chief executive officer of Elizabeth Arden, issued a letter to employees on Tuesday announcing that he will leave the company in January. The statement confirms speculation in recent weeks that England was preparing his departure.
He will be succeeded by Peter A. Midwood, the Geneva-based executive vice president and general manager of the international region, according to the letter. Midwood joined Unilever, Arden’s Anglo-Dutch parent, in 1970. He headed the fragrance division at Quest International — then a Unilever subsidiary — and also spent several years at Unilever U.K. food businesses in senior sales posts. In 1986, he joined Arden.
England was traveling at press time and was unavailable for comment. However, he said in the letter that he plans to return to Australia with his wife and family. “This has not been an easy decision, but it is time to discover life outside of Unilever. I leave with mixed feelings, fond memories and a better person for having known all of you,” he wrote.
England has worked for Unilever, Arden’s parent, for more than 30 years. He was named chief of Arden in October 1995, succeeding Kim Delsing. He inherited a troubled brand with diminishing sales — global wholesale volume had fallen from about $1 billion in 1994 to $850 million in 1995 — and shrinking market share.
England began the tortuous process of trying to revitalize the brand by introducing new products, revamping packaging, overhauling retail counters, updating the advertising and, very importantly, stamping out diversion and cleaning up the international distribution. The brand stabilized in 1996, posting mid-single-digit sales increases in the sluggish U.S. division.
However, the company was still on shaky footing in 1997, and Niall Fitzgerald, chairman of Unilever, expressed disappointment at a financial briefing in February 1998. “There’s a new team in there, but it’s taking more time that we would have wished, and the results in 1997 were not at the level we wished.” Unilever did not break out results for Arden.
Those comments touched off speculation that Arden was on the block — a notion that Unilever executives vigorously denied while defending the track record of the management team.
More recently, Unilever has had good news about Arden. The company announced in February that Arden had returned to profitability in 1998 and had performed strongly in the second half, due in part to the success of its new women’s fragrance, Splendor.
The company has recently introduced a stream of innovative new products, including Ceramide Herbal 12, a skin treatment; Lip Lip Hooray, a lipstick with breath freshening ingredients, and Millennium Energist, a product designed to combat hormonal aging.