Jean-Paul Agon’s successor will have to live up to his important legacy – that of maintaining the main challenge of ensuring good performance both at home and in the international marketplace, despite the pandemic.
After 10 years as CEO of L’Oréal, Jean-Paul Agon, who reached the age limit of 65, will now concede the position to his successor, Nicolas Hieronimus. Agon leaves a solid, international group, which under his leadership has been greatly strengthened. The share value of the French cosmetics giant has quadrupled in 10 years, while in the same period the main Parisian stock exchange index, the CAC 40, grew by a mere 50%.
In the last decade, l’Oréal has made progress in almost all markets; turnover has almost doubled, reaching €28 billion last year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has even reinforced L’Oréal’s structural advantages, including its dominant Internet presence: an evolution that, according to specialists, was also made possible by the stability of the management: L’Oréal has had only five general managers in more than 110 years. But the world of beauty has changed its appearance, small brands are now emerging and growing fast. Before there was a need for colossal marketing budgets, now you can exist as a brand with only the Internet. Dynamics have changed, in the context of stagnant markets in Western Europe and North America.
Small niche or local brands are mushrooming everywhere and sooner or later these will even have an impact on big corporations like l’Oréal.
The group will also have to step up its environmental and social ambitions – topics dear to Jean-Paul Agon’s heart and very sensitive issues in these years when consumers are attentive to the composition of cosmetics and the impact of those products on the environment.
These are the challenges that, Nicolas Hieronimus will have to face on becoming l’Oréal’s sixth CEO on May 1st 2021.
Hieronymus, 57, was appointed deputy general manager of the company in 2017. His choice once again represents an internal solution, which goes in the opposite direction to the tendency towards feminization and the diversification of current profiles within the group. In his career, Hieronimus has always been brilliant. He graduated from ESSEC at the age of 21, two years later he joined L’Oréal and made his bones at Garnier, where he developed the Fructis brand. Then he moved to various divisions and regions of the world (United Kingdom, Mexico). Returning to France, he headed the professional products division for hairdressing salons for a few years, before managing L’Oréal Luxe in 2011. Under his leadership, four brands in the division crossed the threshold of one billion euros in turnover. : Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Kiehl’s and Yves Saint Laurent.
Hieronimus takes the helm of a healthy group, whose net profit fell 5% last year, a relatively small decline in consideration of the upheaval represented by the pandemic, while l’Oréal’s overall sales fell by about 6%, but the first quarter of this year marked a return to the + sign, with the growth of over 5%. The manager will be joined by Barbara Lavernos, the new deputy general manager.
In the main picture: L’Oreal France HQ
In the second picture: Jean-Paul Agon
In the third picture: Nicolas Hieronimus