© Reuters. L’OREAL NICOLAS HIERONIMUS, A WINNER AT the GATES OF the POWER
by Pascale Denis
PARIS (Reuters) – Nicolas Hieronimus-powered number two of L’oréal in may 2017, is unknown to the general public but is a favorite in the race to the leadership of the world leader in cosmetics.
His appointment as deputy director-general, a position created just for him, was felt within the group as a signal for the succession of CEO Jean-Paul Agon, who has announced he will leave his duties at age 65, in 2021.
“Nicolas Hieronimus is clearly seen as the future ruler and the people would be very surprised if it wasn’t him”, to note a part of The l’oréal under the cover of anonymity.
Some, in-house, even talking about a possible transfer of power early, with a split of functions, Jean-Paul Agon taking the presidency and Nicolas Hieronimus the branch.
When interviewed, The l’oréal declined to comment, while Nicolas Hieronimus, him, promises to be “animated by the success of the group in a world that turns at high speed”.
At the time of the digital and the artificial intelligence may call into question the acquired positions of the major groups, the responsiveness and agility are among the major challenges faced by a company that weighs more than 26 billion euros of turnover.
A 54-year-old, this energetic and smiling, Paris-born of a mother, engineer and a father communicating to become a writer, has brilliantly climbed the ladder to a career of pure oréalien.
A graduate of Essec, he has the marketing binds together body and chooses L’oréal, seduced by the works of art that adorn the headquarters of the group, then owner of the gallery Artcurial.
“The beauty, it is the most beautiful profession in the world, it is to create products that are designed to make people more beautiful”, he confided to Reuters from its new offices in Levallois-Perret (Hauts-de-Seine).
It began in 1987 as a product manager at Garnier, where he signed his first success with the creation of shampoos Fructis bottles with green apple, become emblematic of the brand.
After having led The’oréal Paris in France and then in the world, he takes the reins of the mexican subsidiary of the group before returning to France as the CEO of the product division the so-called “professionals”, sold in salons.
The real turning point of his career will happen in 2011 with his appointment at the head of the luxury products division and its brands Lancôme, YSL and Armani.
Under his leadership, in a market driven by explosion of make-up sales related to the staging of the self on social networks, sales took off.
Since 2011, the division sign an annual average growth of 7.7% in comparable data, the strongest of all divisions of the group. Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, and Kiehl’s crossed the barrier of one billion euros of turnover. One of Lancôme exceeds $ 2.5 billion.
It driver also with success the acquisition of american brands Urban Decay and IT Cosmetics, and then, as director-general in charge of the division and selective development of the “travel retail” sales (sales to travelers).
“There has been a kind of alchemy between L’oréal and him and I think he sees farther than most people”, said Fabrice Boé, chief executive officer of Inès de la Fressange and formerly of L’oréal.
The only downside: the redemption of Clarisonic. The sales of these cleaning brushes for the skin are not at the rendezvous, forcing The’oréal to spend, in 2016, 234 million euros of provisions for impairment of assets.
“HE LOVES TO WIN”
In the group, some praise his ability to listen and his ability to drive. “He has a true leadership, knows how to surround himself and it is very much appreciated,” said Marc Dubrule, director of the foresight and the intelligence consumer, while others evoke an attitude sometimes brittle.
Him, considers his “ability to inspire confidence and demonstrate a requirement is a key of success important.”
“The requirement, it is a no-brainer in a leading company highly contested (…) we cannot afford approximations.”
Nicolas Hieronimus likes the ground. It is curious but also very intuitive, according to Elie Ohayon, his friend from the Essec business school. “He knows how to capture the air of the time and it is a strength in a company which needs to understand the trends.”
When he travels, he always asked the local branch to prepare a selection of products to discover and try new brands, says Marc Dubrule.
Sporty, passionate about cycling, which he practices every weekend, Nicolas Hieronimus is also tenacious and motivated by a strong spirit of competition, an asset in a group known for its requirement for results and the pressure to which are subjected his employees.
“This is someone who loves to win. He is very determined. It does not loose anything, but always with a smile,” notes Chris de Lapuente, CEO of Sephora (groupe LVMH (PA:LVMH)).
“It is very ambitious, and when he makes something, it is not to finish second”, confirms a close.
The general opinion is that he is also gifted with a memory out of the ordinary. “It is slightly hypermnésique and can give you the scores of a match PSG-Barça to five years ago,” says one of his friends, Frederick Messian, CEO of the design agency Lonsdale.
Lean silhouette and cinched in chic suits close to the body, Nicolas Hieronimus does not collect luxury watches or the shoes on measure and admits to only luxury of love, “comfortably travel”.
Apart from the attendance of the Century, the prestigious upper room parisian politics and business, it does taste little to society, and, according to his family, is faithful in friendship.
Lover of american cinema, science fiction, music, RnB, or pop, English may also be required to spend four hours in a festival electro with her sons, 21 and 16 years old.
“The music is part of the moments where we can meet with his children. It is a good way to keep in touch with what is done,” he says.
With Jean-Paul Agon, the sharing of tasks is entered. Has Nicolas Hieronimus the strategy of divisions and brands. The CEO of the cross-cutting functions such as finance, industry or research.
In its beginnings, Nicolas Hieronimus extolled the virtues of the Invisible, a hairspray by Garnier. It could, more than thirty years later, take on more light.
(With Sarah White, edited by Jean-Michel Belot)