Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — For Guy Peyrelongue, a 28-year career with L’Oreal and a life as a Frenchman in New York all came together, with the pinning of an ornate red ribbon and medal onto his chest, at a lavish ceremony at the French Consulate here on March 5.
It represented Peyrelongue’s elevation to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest order of merit. And it was pinned onto his jacket by Francois Bujon de L’Estang, the French ambassador to the U.S.
It was an elevation in rank for Peyrelongue, who will retire as president and chief executive officer of L’Oreal USA at the end of this year. He had been first appointed to the Legion of Honor in 1991 with the rank of chevalier.
Although a driving snow swirled outside the windows of the consulate that evening, 154 people crowded inside, including Lindsay Owen-Jones, chairman and ceo of parent L’Oreal in Paris, and friends from outside the company, such as S.I. Newhouse, whose Advance Publications owns Fairchild Publications; Blaine and Robert Trump; and Joan Rivers.
Peyrelongue’s brother Herve travelled from Mexico, where he is one of the leading figures in the fine jewelry industry. Also on hand was Jean-Paul Agon, who has been tapped to take the reins at L’Oreal USA. Agon and Owen-Jones were amongst a crowd of L’Oreal’s top brass from both Paris and New York.
The weather may have been harsh outside, but the champagne and the compliments were flowing inside the ornate chamber. The French ambassador praised the leadership, vision and management skills of Peyrelongue in shaping L’Oreal’s U.S. business into a modern company with sales of $3 billion.
For his part, Peyrelongue passed the credit on to Owen-Jones, who preceded him as president, of what was then called Cosmair Inc., in the early Eighties. “He is the one who started to build Cosmair; when I came I had a platform to build on,” Peyrelongue said, adding that: “He is a man who knows how to manage. He can express a vision and he gave us the means to succeed.”
Owen-Jones later had the final word: “We at L’Oreal are extremely proud that our ceo here is not just a successful businessman, but also a delightful gentleman.”