BASTIEN TO EASE SANOFI UNREST
Byline: Sarah Raper
PARIS — Sanofi Beaute’s new chief, Vincent Bastien, joins the company with the reputation of having turned around a money-losing bottle manufacturer and of steering Louis Vuitton on a steady course for eight years.
However, Bastien, who was appointed managing director earlier this week, as reported, thinks being a takeover survivor may endear him most to his new staff, especially that of Parfums Yves Saint Laurent.
Employees in the cosmetics division complain they’ve suffered constant turmoil since Sanofi’s highly publicized takeover of YSL, completed in May 1993.
“I am aware that it has been a difficult period,” Bastien said, noting that he weathered the takeover of Louis Vuitton by Bernard Arnault in 1990, when over a score of senior Vuitton managers left or were kicked out.
“I have no plans to clean house,” he said of his new company, which should be good news among the Sanofi ranks. “I think my appointment is going to calm the waters. Finally there is a boss where the companies he’s worked for in the past have been successful and he has some experience in this sector.”
He was referring to his 10 years at Saint-Gobain Desjonquères, where he is credited with transforming an unprofitable fragrance-bottlemaker into a model of success.
Bastien, a burly rugby and tennis player, has studied more than a dozen languages, including Arabic, Russian and Javanese. He graduated from France’s prestigious engineering school Polytechnique and holds an MBA from Stanford University.
He comes to Sanofi after a dizzying series of changes. In March 1994, Claude Saujet, the chairman and chief executive officer of Sanofi Beaute, was abruptly forced out. Then Jean-Paul Leon, Sanofi’s executive vice president of administration and finance, was appointed interim president.
Longtime Sanofi executive Jean-Pierre Kerjouan quietly took over the day-to-day responsibilities of managing director, but Sanofi staffers felt abandoned.
“People complained that they never saw Kerjouan, much less Leon,” said one YSL executive.
Unease increased in September, when Lawrence J. Aiken departed as president and ceo of the U.S. arm of Sanofi Beaute. His duties were assumed on an interim basis by Pierre Berlancourt.
Since the company sold off its Stendhal and Perry Ellis brands last year, rumors have been rampant that Sanofi plans to sell off other brands. Geoffrey Beene, Krizia and Fendi remain on the block, but any consideration of unloading Oscar de la Renta was apparently quelled when the company put de la Renta on the board and proclaimed the line a core brand.
More recently, Sanofi chairman Jean-Francois Dehecq reversed a long-standing strategy of centralizing the beauty brands and announced that they would be given greater independence. Bastien believes in this strategy, and he said that his experience at Vuitton, part of Arnault’s LVMH group, would be helpful.
“LVMH is one of the most successful luxury companies at running a variety of independent brands,” he said. “I see my job as managing the stable of brands and helping their directors where I can.”
Leon will remain as president of Sanofi Beaute, but Bastien will be given free reign to run the beauty division. Kerjouan is expected to be reassigned within the group.
Berlancourt will remain as director of personnel and industrial resources and will continue to run the U.S. subsidiary. However, a Sanofi spokesman said that Bastien would have a chance to review the U.S. organization.