L’Oreal Chooses CEO Successor & Forms New Tech Division As it Plots Digital Future

Lisa Johnston
Senior Editor
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Jean-Paul Agon
Jean-Paul Agon

Nicolas Hieronimus has been elevated from deputy CEO to CEO of L’Oreal, succeeding the retiring Jean-Paul Agon on May 1, 2021, and ending an 18-month process.

The No. 14 consumer goods company is separating the CEO and chairman roles, and Agon will remain chairman while Barbara Lavernos becomes the new deputy CEO. L’Oreal also creating a new research, innovation and technologies division that Lavernos will lead beginning in February.

Hieronimus joined L’Oréal in 1987 as a product manager and has served as deputy CEO since 2017. During his 33-year tenure, he’s held a range of roles across divisions, including general manager of the L’Oréal professional products division, president of L’Oréal Luxe, and president of selective divisions.

Agon called out Hieronimus’ sensitivity to consumer needs and expectations, as well as his deep marketing experience and brand knowledge. “For the last three years, he has played a key role by my side as deputy CEO, to animate our operational divisions, especially in the period of crisis that we have been traversing for several months,” he said in a statement.

Nicolas Hieronimus
Nicolas Hieronimus

Lavernos, who has been with the company for three decades, is replacing the retiring Laurent Attal, executive VP research and innovation. She’ll also continue leading information technologies and the company’s BeautyTech digital transformation initiative.

L’Oreal, which counts more than 88,000 employees and 36 brands under its portfolio, experienced an 11.7% drop in sales during its first half attributed to retail and salon closures and a reduction in cosmetics spending as a result of widespread remote working during COVID-19.

But, as with many CGs, digital sales have skyrocketed, and e-commerce sales rose 65% during this period to represent one-quarter of the company’s total sales. This shift marked the first time online sales grew faster in countries outside China, said Agon during an investors call in July, with its e-commerce penetration progressing more in the prior 10 weeks than during the previous three or four years.

“Our brands are creating more personalized and engaging consumer experiences with amazing digital services, like virtual try-ons, diagnostic, tele-consultations and shoppable live streaming,” he noted. “All this is building stronger relationship between our brands and consumers.”

Barbara Lavernos
Barbara Lavernos

In a statement announcing the new R&I and Technology division, Agon praised Lavernos’ strategic vision and operational execution skills, adding: “I am convinced that the combination of R&I and Technology will enable us to invent the beauty of the future: a beauty which relies on R&I — at the historic heart of our model based on science and innovation, now allied with new opportunities offered by technology.”

Lavernos became global chief procurement officer for the L’Oréal Group in 2004 and managing director of the travel retail business in 2012. She was named COO and a member of the executive committee in 2014.

Her current role will be filled by Antoine Vanlaeys, who is currently operations director for the Asia-Pacific zone, the company’s leading geographical zone. Vanlaeys, who joined L’Oreal in 2002, was named director of operations for L'Oréal Luxe in 2011 and took his current role in 2016. He will join the group's executive committee.

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