Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Jami Morse Heidegger has resigned as president of Kiehl’s Since 1851, less than a year after selling the family-owned business for an estimated $180 million to L’Oreal.
Heidegger, who says she will continue to work with L’Oreal on an advisory basis, says she wants to devote more time to her three children and family after “20 years of being immersed in the business.”
Her departure ends the era of family control and begins another, in which L’Oreal will continue to develop the business. Heidegger’s duties will be assumed by Michelle Taylor, the Lancome executive who was named senior vice president and general manager in August. Taylor will now report to Philip Shearer, president of the Luxury Products Division of L’Oreal USA. Previously, Heidegger had reported to him.
Kiehl’s has been a family affair since 1921 when Heidegger’s grandfather bought an East Village pharmacy, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month.
His granddaughter turned the funky store at 109 Third Avenue, which featured Harley Davidson’s on display, into a hip mecca, merchandising a beauty brand that had achieved cult status by currying favor with a glittering clientele that included a long line of celebrities, running the gamut from Magic Johnson to Bill Clinton.
“An exciting juncture” is how Heidegger described the turning of chapters Wednesday. While remaining emotionally committed to the business, Heidegger says she feels confident about the “Kiehl’s L’Oreal integration” and that the new owners are steering the right course for the company. “Kiehl’s is in great shape and is going wonderful places,” she said.
As reported, a second Kiehl’s store will open in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco in May. Shearer sees it as the first step in a careful and meticulous expansion that could entail opening as many as 10 freestanding stores a year around the world for the next five years. He also expects to gradually swell the line’s tiny 45-door U.S. distribution.
Shearer stressed that in terms of merchandising and service, “the brand has to be expressed in the right way.” He declined to discuss figures, but industry sources estimate current sales at $40 million to $50 million in a combination of retail and wholesale, with a potential to do three times that total within five years.
Heidegger, meanwhile, is looking forward to life at home in Chatsworth, Calif., with her husband Klaus, the former Kiehl’s co-president who resigned earlier last year, and their children.
“I’m eager to be a soccer mom,” Heidegger said, adding that the first item on her new domestic agenda is to learn to drive, then buy an SUV.

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