NEW YORK — The long-speculated deal to sell the Elizabeth Arden and Elizabeth Taylor beauty brands is imminent, according to reports circulating in international cosmetics circles.
Cosmetics industry executives gathered in Cannes, France, at Tax Free World Exhibition, said Thursday that a deal between parent Unilever and Miami Lakes, Fla.-based French Fragrances International was in the process of being signed and could be announced today or Monday.
FFI, already a distributor of some Arden fragrances, also handles the Halston, Geoffrey Beene and Paul Sebastian fragrance licenses. Its 1999 sales were reported at $361 million.
This news would confirm a report that first ran in these columns on Oct.5.
Sources estimate that the size of business at stake — the Elizabeth Arden brand and the Elizabeth Taylor fragrances — is estimated at $600 million wholesale. The purchase price is estimated to be about $300 million.
According to the reports, the remaining fragrance licenses — including those from Karl Lagerfeld, Nino Cerruti, Valentino and Chloe — would be transferred to the recently formed Unilever Cosmetics International. That business would then become one of the divisions overseen by Paulanne Mancuso, president of Unilever Cosmetics International. The other divisions in her stable are Calvin Klein Cosmetics and Prestige Cosmetics International, headed up by Laura Lee Miller, which has licenses with Nautica, Vera Wang and BCBG.
Historically, the most troubled part of the company was the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics and treatment business in U.S. department stores. The company did better overseas, and the Elizabeth Arden franchise is one of its stalwarts.
Elizabeth Arden was restructured earlier this year after the retirement of former president Peter England, and his replacement by Peter Midwood, the former head of international. Arden’s organization was refocused earlier this year with a stronger emphasis on building the fragrance business. Reports circulating in the market indicate that Arden’s business has improved.
A spokesman for FFI couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday; Mancuso declined to comment. Peter Midwood, president of Arden, was not available for comment.
There have been reports from department stores that the Arden business has stabilized and even improved. Elizabeth Arden’s entire global business has been estimated between $750 million and $800 million wholesale.
It is speculated that top executives at Arden domestically and internationally — such as Midwood — will be offered positions with Mancuso’s organization.

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