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L’Oreal chairman to step down

Lindsay Owen-Jones is stepping down as chairman of L'Oréal on March 17, his 65th birthday, the Financial Times reported. CEO Jean-Paul Agon will become executive chairman of the company.

Owen-Jones "delivered almost 20 years of double-digit net-profit growth as executive chairman from 1988 to 2006," the FT report noted. He is expected to remain a director and to be named honorary president, the article said.

... [T]he timing comes as a surprise, given that Mr. Owen-Jones's mandate was renewed in April last year, to run to 2014.

The article pointed out, however, that Owen-Jones "has been caught up in the controversy sparked by a row in the ranks of the Bettencourt family, the group's founding shareholder with 30 per cent."

During the feud between Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, it was revealed that Bettencourt had given Owen-Jones a gift of 100 million euros, and that under his leadership the company had contracted to pay photographer François-Marie Banier -- whose relationship with Bettencourt sparked the mother-daughter feud -- 710,000 euros a year, the FT reported.

However, Mr. Owen-Jones has always insisted the gift was a personal one, and that he had not favoured Mrs. Bettencourt over other shareholders in any way.

(Source: Financial Times, Feb. 7, 2011.)

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