Nicolas Hieronimus Named L’Oréal CEO

Jennifer Weil
·4 mins read

PARIS — Nicolas Hieronimus has been named L’Oréal’s next chief executive officer, the world’s largest beauty company said on Wednesday evening.

Hieronimus, currently the group’s deputy ceo in charge of divisions, will succeed Jean-Paul Agon in the position on May 1.

Agon will remain on as company chairman after the ceo handover.

“Our committee has been working for more than 18 months on the future governance of L’Oréal and the succession plan of Jean-Paul Agon as ceo, in an approach that we wanted to be forward-looking, objective and demanding,” Sophie Bellon, chairwoman of the appointments and governance committee and independent director, said in a statement.

“After studying the group’s major challenges for the coming years, the committee selected several candidates, both men and women, with the skills and personal qualities to meet these challenges successfully,” she continued. “The committee then interviewed them. Nicolas Hieronimus emerged as the most legitimate candidate to succeed Jean-Paul Agon as ceo. His appointment was, therefore, recommended to the board, with the full agreement of Jean-Paul Agon.”

Barbara Lavernos, executive vice president chief technology and operations officer who recently was named the head of research, innovation and technology starting in February 2021, will be appointed deputy ceo on May 1, succeeding Hieronimus in the position.

“Nicolas Hieronimus is an inspiring leader, who has all the qualities required to be the ceo of L’Oréal,” Agon said in the statement. “His great sensitivity to the needs and expectations of consumers, his perfect understanding of the spirit of the times, his marketing experience of beauty in all channels, countries and categories, his intimate knowledge of the group’s brands and his ability to unite and engage teams make him the best candidate to lead L’Oréal.

“Nicolas Hieronimus is also perfectly prepared for the role, given an exemplary career of more than 30 years within the group with major successes, most notably at the helm of the L’Oréal Luxe Division,” Agon continued. “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 has the board of directors’ full confidence, and as well as my own.”

Agon lauded Lavernos as “perfectly equipped to take on the strategic role of deputy ceo. With her appointment, research is placed at the highest level of the group, confirming its critical role for L’Oréal. The new direction, combining R&I and technology will be the cradle of the group’s great inventions for the future. These changes reflect a spirit of great continuity, to which L’Oréal has always been attached. I am convinced that Nicolas Hieronimus will lead our group to new successes, with the full support of the 88,000 employees of L’Oréal.”

As reported by WWD on Sept. 22, it had been widely believed — inside and outside of L’Oréal — that Hieronimus, 56, was the heir apparent. When he was appointed as deputy ceo, a newly created role, in May 2017, it amplified speculation that the executive might one day take over the entire group.

Hieronimus has been on a steep trajectory since joining L’Oréal in 1987 as a product manager fresh out of ESSEC, one of France’s top business schools.

He successively had management leadership positions at Laboratoires Garnier, where he created the landmark Fructis hair-care range; Garnier Maybelline in the U.K.; L’Oréal Paris in France, which, as an international manager, he repositioned as “accessible luxury” and developed the skin-care ranges of Dermo Expertise, Solar Expertise and Men Expert.

Next, he was general manager of L’Oréal Mexico in 2005; general manager of the L’Oréal Professional Products Division, where he extended its global reach with the launch of Iona hair color, before stepping up to president of L’Oréal Luxe in January 2011.

In July 2013, Hieronimus took on the additional role as president of Selective divisions, encompassing the Luxe, Active Cosmetics and Professional Products division. As deputy ceo, he added the Consumer Products Division to his portfolio.

When Hieronimus was named deputy ceo, it raised the question of whether he was going to be gently groomed over a number of years to take over the company’s helm in a similar fashion to how Agon was by his predecessor, Lindsay Owen-Jones.

Agon became L’Oréal’s ceo in 2006, and Owen-Jones remained on at the company as chairman until 2011.

L’Oréal mandates that a ceo’s succession takes place before the executive’s 65th birthday. In the case of Agon, that is in July 2021.

Sign up for WWD's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.