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NEW YORK — N.V. Perricone will have to wait a few more months for its new president to assume his management duties.

A New York federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on Friday restraining Shashi Batra from violating his contract with his former employer, the Estée Lauder Cos., for five months.

According to court documents, Judge Robert Sweet issued a preliminary injunction that bars Batra from assuming his new position as president of N.V. Perricone for a “sitting out” period of five months, reduced from the 12 months called for in the confidentiality, non-solicitation and noncompetition agreement he had with Lauder.

Lauder will continue to pay Batra his salary of $375,000 for the duration of the noncompete period, and he is free to earn additional wages from non-competitive work if he chooses, according to the judge’s direction.

“It’s a relief that the decision has been made….The judge’s wisdom prevailed and he came up with a nice answer in the middle,” said Nicholas Perricone, chief executive officer and the current president of N.V. Perricone.

Batra declined to comment on the decision.

“The judge’s ruling is a victory for all who respect written obligations,” stated William P. Lauder, president and chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos.

“We will hold Mr. Batra to the full term of the preliminary injunction and are evaluating our options for the future,” said Sara Moss, general counsel for the Estée Lauder Cos. She has expressed an intention to stand by Lauder’s noncompete clauses throughout the trial, and seems set to continue. The company cited Batra’s move to a direct competitor as its impetus in filing the initial lawsuit.

Prior to his resignation from Lauder, Batra was general manager of the Rodan and Fields dermatological skin care brand and Darphin USA, a French pharmacy-oriented skin care brand. He had been with Lauder since January 2004.

The employment dispute started in early March when Batra resigned from Lauder to take a position as president with N.V. Perricone in its San Francisco office. According to court documents, Batra filed a lawsuit in San Francisco County Superior Court on March 13 asking the court to declare the noncompete clause of his contract with Lauder void under California law.

This story first appeared in the May 8, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Lauder responded with a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York asking for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction barring Batra from breaching the terms of the agreement and from taking employment with Perricone. In its filing, Lauder charged Batra with breach of contract and theft of trade secrets. Batra responded in the New York courts by moving for an order to show cause for abstention and a stay.

The decision will have no affect on Perricone’s expansion plans for its cosmeceutical skin care business and everything is moving forward as planned, said Perricone. The company will continue with its initiatives and he will oversee them until the end of the noncompete period in August. Batra will then take over day-to-day operations, Perricone said.

Body Shop Net Gains 1% in 2005
LONDON — The Body Shop International announced Friday a 1 percent profit rise for the year ended Feb. 25.

The British ethical beauty retailer and manufacturer, which is in the process of being acquired by L’Oréal, said profits reached 29.2 million pounds, or $53.9 million at current exchange, versus 28.8 million pounds, or $53.1 million, in the prior-year period.

Full-year operating profits were up 6 percent to 41.5 million pounds, or $76.6 million, from 39.2 million pounds, or $72.3 million. In the same period, retail sales reached 772 million pounds, or $1.42 billion, an increase of 7 percent from 724 million pounds, or $1.34 billion. Based on a comparable number of doors, sales were up 4 percent year-on-year.

In the first eight weeks of its current financial year, the company’s retail sales were up 8 percent, or 5 percent on a comparable basis, suggesting L’Oréal’s takeover bid has not entailed negative consumer reaction. “Our overall retail sales performance demonstrates the global strength of The Body Shop brand,” executive chairman Adrian Bellamy and chief executive officer Peter Saunders said in a statement. “We achieved a 6 percent increase in operating profit, in line with the forecast we made in January. The rollout of our new store format has progressed during the year and we have continued to grow The Body Shop at Home and e-commerce channels in line with our multichannel strategy. We have also expanded into new markets, with store openings taking place in both Russia and Jordan during the year.”

By geographical region, retail sales were up 4 percent in the Americas; rose 11 percent in Asia Pacific; were up 7 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and gained 3 percent in the U.K. and Ireland. On a comparable basis, sales slipped 1 percent, up 6 percent, up 7 percent and up 2 percent, respectively.

The firm will open its first store in India this summer, while openings also are planned for Pakistan and Poland this year.

The Body Shop said in the statement it continued working on a strategy to develop a masstige positioning for the brand over the past year. That has included new product innovations and store design as well as a focus on improving customer-service programs. Projects on the horizon this year include the launch of a new makeup collection and an aloe vera-based treatment line.

As reported, L’Oréal said Thursday that it has received valid acceptances for 89.9 percent of The Body Shop’s share capital. The French beauty giant’s offer of 300 pence, or $5.53, a share values The Body Shop at about 652 million pounds, or $1.2 billion.

“We believe that L’Oréal’s significant strengths in the management and development of global brands, combined with our skills as a global retailer with strong values and commitments, will be a powerful combination in the cosmetics and personal care marketplace,” the statement said. “It is intended that The Body Shop will retain its existing identity and values and operate independently within the L’Oréal group, led by the current management team.”

The Body Shop had 2,133 doors as of Feb. 25, following 88 openings during the financial year.
Brid Costello

L’Oréal Paris Signs Jane Fonda
LONDON — L’Oréal Paris has tapped Jane Fonda as the face of its Age Re-Perfect Pro-Calcium treatment line.

The 68-year-old star is the latest addition to the L’Oréal-owned brand’s constellation of celebrity spokeswomen, which includes Beyoncé Knowles, Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz and Eva Longoria.

“A committed woman, an incredible actress and an audacious film producer, Jane embodies, more than anyone, the modern woman,” said Youcef Nabi, international general manager of L’Oréal Paris, in a statement. “She is radiant, a woman in tune with the times. She is the greatest possible proof that beauty does not stop at 30 or 40, and certainly not at 50. At the age of 68, Jane Fonda’s life is more fulfilled than ever.”

The Emmy- and Oscar-winning actress will appear in ads worldwide for Age Re-Perfect Pro-Calcium, a treatment line for women 60-plus. In the U.K., where the cream bowed in April, television and magazine ads will break this month.

“We are the first major brand to give a face to women over 60 who intend to start a new life over,” said Nabi, in the statement. “Why shouldn’t these women have a skin care range designed specially for them? Their physiological and psychological needs are different from those of younger women. They call for a response, and for L’Oréal Paris, the best representation of it is Jane Fonda. While the career of this modern woman, a citizen of the world, is enough in itself to inspire us to dream and admire, the richness of her personality has turned this actress into much more than a major Hollywood star. She is an icon who has proved that staying beautiful and fit after 60 is a modern reality.”

Besides having an illustrious film career, Fonda became a fitness phenomenon in the Eighties with her series of workout videos. She is also known for her political activism.

A L’Oréal spokeswoman declined to discuss Fonda’s compensation for the deal.

Courteney Cox Promotes Sunscreen
NEW YORK — Courteney Cox looked very much among friends in the center of a gaggle of beauty editors Thursday — which is a good thing, because if her TV pilot, “Dirt,” is picked up, she may go from being a target of tabloid journalists to becoming one, on TV, at least.

Cox and husband David Arquette were in Manhattan to help promote a $135 sunscreen that will be launched later this month by Kinerase, the dermatological skin care brand produced by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Cox has been the brand’s face since March 2005. “I get it for free now, but I was a paying consumer before,” said Cox, dispelling any myths about her use of the products.

As for the dirt on “Dirt,” Cox — who is co-executive producing the show with Arquette through their Coquette Productions — plays a tabloid editor named Lucy Spiller, and is now awaiting a final word on its pickup from FX, the network expected to televise the show. Cox is also in the midst of filming “The Tripper,” a movie being directed and cowritten by Arquette, who also stars in the film. It is expected to be released in 2007. She is in post-production with an adventure-fantasy film, “Zoom,” and has finished an animated film called “Barnyard.” Both movies are expected later this year.

But when she’s not making movies, Cox, a self-proclaimed product junkie, is making suggestions to Wes Wheeler, president of North America and global commercial development for Valeant Pharmaceuticals, about things she’d like to see added to the line. “I’d love to see a neck cream — that’s my new obsession,” she said, adding that she’d also love to see a hand cream and a baby line — “I started putting sunscreen on Coco [Cox and Arquette’s daughter, who will be two in June] at three months, because that’s when she started swimming,” said Cox. “She’s lucky — she has the blondest hair ever, but her skin is darker than mine.” Arquette’s suggestion: a men’s line.

And, while celebrity fragrances du jour are the norm lately, don’t be looking for Eau de Courteney anytime soon. Cox, a fragrance loyalist, has been wearing the same L’Artisan Parfumeur scent, Jour de Fête, for 15 years. (While Cox was under the impression that it had been discontinued, a spokesperson for the brand confirmed Thursday that it is still available in L’Artisan Parfumeur boutiques.)
Julie Naughton