TRIUMPHANT RETURN: ROOS TO TAKE HELM AT SANOFI BEAUTE
Byline: Jennifer Weil
PARIS — Gucci Group has nabbed a hot one.
In a single stroke, it has brought one of beauty’s more high-profile executives back to her home turf.
Chantal Roos was appointed president and managing director of Sanofi Beaute — Gucci’s beauty division that includes Yves Saint Laurent fragrance and cosmetics — on Monday, confirming a WWD report that appeared March 3.
Roos is currently the president of Beaute Prestige International, (BPI), a unit of Shiseido. She will succeed Raymond Ortal, a Sanofi veteran who has been running the division since October 1996. He will retire after 27 years with the company.
No successor has yet been named for Roos, who will begin her new job April 10 and report to Gucci president and chief executive officer Domenico De Sole, who said in a statement: “We anticipate great success for Sanofi Beaute under Ms. Roos’s leadership. Her experience and creative knowledge will be a tremendous asset to the company.”
Other industry sources also gave a vigorous nod to the nomination.
“I am extremely happy for her and proud,” said Christian Courtin, president of the international division of Clarins. “She can bring [Sanofi Beaute] lots of energy and know-how.”
“Roos is brilliant — probably one of the most talented and gifted in our industry,” agreed another beauty executive here.
In a certain respect, Roos is returning to her roots. She did a 14-year stint with Saint Laurent that ended in 1990, when she was executive vice president and managing director, France. While there, she launched one of the most successful blockbuster designer fragrances, Opium, plus bestsellers Kouros and Paris.
Later at BPI, Roos built successful fragrance businesses from scratch for two idiosyncratic designers.
L’Eau d’Issey, the house’s first project, almost didn’t happen. Issey Miyake was opposed to marketing a scent, saying he wanted something that resembled water. In a story the designer has told many times, Miyake thought he had given Roos an impossible task, but she came back with a presentation of a water concept that convinced him to go ahead. L’Eau d’Issey still ranks in Sephora’s top 10 fragrances eight years after its launch.
She then created Gaultier’s beauty business, including the tin-can packaging of a corsetted bust-shaped bottle and the recent Fragile scent in a snow globe bottle replete with a figurine dressed in an haute couture gown.
Roos is extremely well-respected in the beauty community here and abroad. She has one glass of wine with lunch, works out religiously twice a week and has no patience for the traditional male-dominated approach of many French beauty companies.
Roos’s work is cut out for her at Saint Laurent, by most estimations. “It has been quite a while that the brand has needed a real boss, a real pro — and now they’re going to have one,” another Paris-based beauty executive said.
YSL fragrances are part of the beauty group that Gucci acquired from the French pharmaceuticals firm Sanofi Beaute last year. The division also includes Roget et Gallet, and the fragrance businesses of Oscar de la Renta, Van Cleef & Arpels, Fendi and Krizia. Last year, the group posted sales of $536.7 million, up 2 percent over 1998, according to company figures. All figures are at current exchange rates.
But the brands will have to do a lot to regain their luster in prestige distribution, given how much is on the gray market. And Roos is known for being fiercely protective of her brands.
Sanofi Beaute has been in a holding pattern since last March, when it was sold to PPR’s holding company Artemis. Artemis then flipped the business to Gucci in November 1999, creating a new luxury goods conglomerate to rival LVMH.
Since the takeover, rumors have been flying that Sanofi Beaute would spin off all its beauty holdings except for Saint Laurent, which is its biggest money maker with 67 percent of group sales.
Of the remainder, it is estimated that Oscar accounts for 12 percent, Van Cleef 8 percent, Roger et Gallet 6 percent and Krizia and Fendi 5 percent. The remaining 2 percent is from miscellaneous sources,
But now some sources are saying that the Roos nomination is a sign Gucci is becoming serious about beauty and that the company might even keep some or all of the Sanofi Beaute brands.
“It proves beauty is a strategic business for them,” said one Paris-based analyst. “It is a division they want to develop.”
“Gucci Group remains committed to all of the brands that are currently in the group,” confirmed a Gucci spokesman Monday.
Industry sources say Gucci will most probably keep those brands for critical mass, which is so important in the beauty business, and then try to regain its own fragrance license, which is locked up at Wella in a 50-year deal that won’t end until 2028. However, insiders say Gucci might be close to gaining more control over that business. Sources say Gucci is considering acquiring Wella’s fragrance division, which also includes Rochas and Anna Sui, or converting its license to something that resembles a joint venture.
At present, Merrill Lynch values that license at $279 million .
One of Roos’s first orders of business will be to change the name of the group. Sources say the one name being considered is Yves Saint Laurent Beaute.
Other items on the to-do list include building up the stagnant but venerable cologne business of Roger et Gallet; increasing the solid but small Van Cleef business, and increasing Oscar de la Renta’s exposure outside the U.S.
Meanwhile, ironically, Roos will be overseeing the beauty license of Fendi — whose ready-to-wear business is 51 percent owned by a partnership of arch rivals LVMH and Prada.