The best talent in the fight for beauty

When Stéphane Rinderknech was named president and CEO of LVMH’s perfume and cosmetics division in March, it was an expected appointment. Rinderknech joined the French luxury group a year earlier, ostensibly to lead its hospitality division, but the executive was a beauty veteran, having spent 18 years in senior roles at L’Oreal. To say his departure was a blow to the world’s largest beauty company is an understatement: as the conglomerate’s former president for North America and CEO of L’Oréal USA, Rinderknech was even considered a a candidate to run it all one day.

L’Oréal does not take its loss in the air. For a year, she and LVMH have been involved in a legal battle over the appointment of Rinderknech. In 2022, L’Oréal filed a lawsuit in a French court against LVMH, claiming the executive breached the terms of its non-competition clause. The court initially sided with L’Oréal, but LVMH appealed the decision and won. L’Oreal filed a subsequent appeal earlier this year, which is ongoing.

L’Oreal representatives said the case is still pending. LVMH declined to comment.

As luxury conglomerates like LVMH, Kering and Puig seek to boost their beauty businesses, fights over talent are likely to become more common. With new avenues for top beauty talent, a class of executives is looking to trade. Take Raffaella Cornaggia, who spent 14 years in various roles at Estée Lauder companies, with previous stints at Chanel and L’Oréal, before joining Kering Beauté as CEO, or Giulio Bergamaschi, CEO of Acqua di Parma , who previously worked at L’Oréal for 18 years.

Kering is clearly ready to pay top dollar to gain a foothold in a category that until now has been licensed. Puig is also focused on increasing its market share and, as a private company, faces little pressure from investors on spending. And with scale on its side, LVMH is able to outspend its competition on talent.

“If you have done a great product campaign 15 times, what will happen next? said Véronique Le Bansais, partner and managing director of the luxury consulting firm MAD. “Whether you’re at Lauder or L’Oréal, there are people who are entrepreneurial and ready for change.”

The appeal of luxury

Until recently, senior beauty executives were more likely to leave for start-ups or PE-backed brands. Coty executive Andrew Stanleick, credited with CoverGirl’s turnaround and global CEO of the company’s joint venture with Kylie Cosmetics and KKW, visited the SPAC Beauty Health-backed skincare and technology company, the parent company of HydraFacial, in 2022.

Kering, Puig and LVMH, with rapidly evolving beauty strategies, offer the stability and rewards of a large, established company, but often also the transformational growth opportunities of a new business.

“In the past, the biggest beauty players in the executive shopping market couldn’t afford to leave,” said Martin Kartin, director of his eponymous executive search firm, which works with beauty brands like K18, Supergoop and Bluemercury. “Now…talent can say to Lauder, L’Oreal and Shiseido, ‘I can make whatever money I want and it’s more entrepreneurial. »

Senior managers often sign non-competition clauses. But companies like LVMH and Kering can poach talent to work in other categories, like fashion or spirits. Like Rinderknech, Bergamaschi first joined LVMH in a non-cosmetic role at Loro Piana before changing roles.

Most in-demand talent

Just having a top name on your resume isn’t enough to get recruiters to come and call you. As the race to balance wholesale distribution with owned retail stores and e-commerce sites tightens, luxury companies seek leaders with strong track records in digital transformation or expertise in luxury customer base to replicate what competitors like Chanel Beauty and Dior Beauty have done.

According to Le Bansais, most high-level talent has similar skills in product development, wholesale distribution and brand marketing, but “the move to DTC puts more pressure to attract people and connect them to your brand,” she said.

Certainly, a new definition of luxury beauty has upended the status quo. Brands like Byredo, Aesop and Creed are challenging what a direct connection to customers can look like, which is one of the reasons why large conglomerates are willing to invest top dollar to acquire them, staff them in staff and develop them.

Potential hires must also exhibit growth strategies, international experience and M&A capabilities, said Caroline Pill, partner at Heidrick & Struggles, but more importantly, be recognized as an inspirational leader who can attract new talent. exciting and desirable candidates as the company grows.

Play Defense

It’s too early to tell what new poaching will occur as Puig, LVMH and Kering invest more in their beauty businesses (although Kering is actively recruiting), but beauty-centric conglomerates need to rethink their structures to protect the strategies of trademark and trade secrets.

“More and more companies are losing high-potential and promising executives because of the hierarchies they have put in place,” Kartin said.

For example, it’s the norm for pure beauty companies to have more than five executive vice presidents who all receive similar stock options and comparable salaries, he said. In these environments, it can be more difficult for the C suite and HR to create new or more flexible roles with additional responsibilities or benefits. But modernizing corporate structures by letting go of long-standing silos and other considerations should be justified for top performers for retention. Damian Chiam, partner at Burō Talent, agreed that seasoned talent would likely be both the most sought after and on the lookout for their next career move.

Still, traditional beauty companies have something to offer millennial and Gen Z talent, mostly brand and division rotations that offer broad career progression and experience. Experts believe getting hired early at a new establishment like Kering Beauty might be too good an opportunity to pass up at any level, even with a better counteroffer.

“Stay or go is not necessarily about money – it’s about power, doing something bigger and climbing the pyramid,” Le Bansais said. “Spurring year-on-year growth is no longer enough. It’s about finding a role to carry out a change and having a trophy.

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