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NEW YORK — L’Oréal USA has announced a change in command of its powerful $1.4 billion Luxury Products Division with the appointment of Edgar Huber as president, succeeding Luc Nadeau, effective Sept. 1.

Nadeau has been named to what Jean-Paul Agon, president and chief executive officer of L’Oréal USA, describes as “a new important position” in the Montreal-based L’Oréal Canada. In addition to being appointed president of the Canadian Luxury Products Division, Nadeau has been named to the newly created post of executive vice president of corporate communications and external relations, in effect L’Oréal’s ambassador to Canada. The appointment underscores the importance that Agon has attached to the task of raising L’Oréal’s profile and building its image in North America. It is a facet of the corporation that Agon feels is underdeveloped.

This story first appeared in the June 27, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

It also represents a homecoming for Nadeau, who began his career with L’Oréal in Canada, rising to senior vice president and general manager of the Luxury Product Division before transferring to New York nearly six years ago as senior vice president and general manager of Lancôme. He was named to his present post two years ago.

Nadeau acknowledged Thursday that when he came to the U.S. he had expressed a desire to return to Canada in five or six years. While admitting he will miss his friends and retail partners in the U.S., the trip back to Montreal will be “a return to my roots.”

“It is a really positive move for everybody,” Agon said, noting that Huber had held a parallel post in the U.K., where he was managing director of the Luxury Products Division before moving to New York in April 2002 and taking the helm of Kiehl’s. He joined L’Oréal in 1992.

Agon praised Huber’s performance in the U.K. and added that he has “done a good job at Kiehl’s.” The word “opportunity” does not even begin to cover the size of this step for Huber, who is going from being the leader of L’Oréal’s fledgling counterculture, Kiehl’s, to chief of the second-biggest group of department store brands, right behind Estée Lauder Cos., for 2002, according to consumer tracking firm NPD BeautyTrends.

Sparked by the burgeoning Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Drakkar Noir businesses, the L’Oréal fragrance category gained almost six share points in the last five years, while skin care and makeup each dipped three points, according to NPD. Lauren arguably has been the hottest brand on the fragrance bar since the launch of Romance in 1998. And Lancôme has remained a contender, ranking third behind Clinique and the Lauder brand.

But it has not been easy, considering that the Luxury Product Division has borne the brunt of the department store malaise that has afflicted the entire prestige industry. Sales at the division were up 2 percent in 2002, but down 2.6 percent in the first quarter, with Lancôme dipping 1.8 percent in a depressed market. But, according to industry sources, the trend has turned up in the last couple of weeks, particularly for Lancôme and the Designer Fragrance Division, as well as Kiehl’s. “Our retail business is starting to turn in the right direction,” Nadeau said.

As president of the Canadian Luxury Products Division, Nadeau will succeed Pierre-Olivier Morlaas. But it was the new post of executive vice president of corporate communications and external relations that seemed to excite Nadeau the most. “For me, it’s a brand new opportunity to gain knowledge and identity with all the divisions of L’Oréal — the mass market, the salon business and the active category, as well as luxury. It opens up a whole new horizon,” he added, noting that it will give him the chance to “round myself up,” an opportunity that he would not have in the huge, sprawling, American operation.

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