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NEW YORK — Jill Granoff, president and chief operating officer of the Victoria Secret Beauty division of Limited Brands, has decided it’s time to leave the company that she helped build into a nearly $1 billion force.

She plans to leave April 11. Christine Beauchamp will continue at the helm as president and chief merchandise manager and Mike Nicholson, now senior vice president and chief financial officer, will step up to executive vice president and chief operating officer. Like Granoff, he will function as co-leader with Beauchamp.

Granoff, who joined VSB in April 1999 as chief financial and planning officer, was a key part of the senior management team, led by retired chief executive officer Robin Burns, that accelerated the dramatic expansion of Victoria’s Secret into beauty.

In a statement, Leslie Wexner, chairman and ceo of the parent Limited Brands, said, “Jill’s extensive background in the beauty business and her strong and successful leadership at Victoria’s Secret Beauty have served Limited Brands well during a time of unprecedented change and expansion in the beauty and personal care group. Jill played a key role in repositioning VSB into a competitive force in the industry and doubling sales from $500 million to nearly $1 billion.”

Len Schlesinger, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Limited Brands, added, “Jill is an extremely talented businessperson, highly regarded both within Limited Brands and, more broadly, across the industry. In addition, she’s an inspirational leader and a true business partner. Her leadership and capabilities will be greatly missed.” Granoff reported to him in his role as group president for beauty and personal care.

After Burns left in 2004, Granoff was named chief operating officer and co-leader with Sherry Baker. After Baker left in April 2005, Granoff was named president and chief operating officer in tandem with Beauchamp.

Over the last two years, Granoff has led the integration of the store teams, in which the retailers in the Victoria’s Secret apparel division took responsibility for the VSB stores as well. She also was instrumental in the creation last October of Beauty Avenues, a joining together of all of Limited Brands product production capabilities under one roof. This was in addition to leading the entry of VSB into foreign markets.

This story first appeared in the March 31, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I loved leading the transition teams for the acceleration of growth,” she said this week. “But for me, personally, it’s time to find the next great opportunity.”

Granoff said she started to talk to Schlesinger about opportunities last November as soon as the Beauty Avenues consolidation was completed. Granoff is strongly grounded in finance and operations, but “I love to build brands.” While taking time off, Granoff said she will be surveying her options, which include the consumer and retail sectors, although she would like to stay in beauty. One area that interests her, she said, is private equity investment groups that work with young companies.

Granoff said she is proud of the crack team that she is leaving behind and a thriving business, which now is producing gains that have climbed into the double digits, thanks to innovative concepts such as Beauty Rush. In addition, Granoff has been involved in the overseas expansion, first in the travel retail market in the U.K. in fall 2004 and then with the entry a year later into the Brazilian travel retail market, where, she notes, Victoria’s Secret now ranks number one in units and number two in dollars. There are also reports that VSB is considering entering duty free markets in Germany and Turkey this spring in partnership with Gebr. Heinemann, but the company had no comment.

Granoff, who had worked with Burns at Estée Lauder before moving to VSB, clearly is ready for another challenge. She recalled what the mission was when Burns brought her over to VSB: “To build a sexy, sophisticated beauty business leveraging the power of the most dominant lingerie brand in the world.”

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