Taylor Rises to Top of P&G Succession Race With Bigger Role

Key Lafley Lieutenant Adds Beauty to Duties as Henretta Takes E-Business Post

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Procter & Gamble Co. has named David Taylor to oversee global beauty effective Feb. 1, making him the apparent front-runner to succeed Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley.

David Taylor
David Taylor

The move adds to Mr. Taylor's current duties as group president-global health and grooming, putting him in charge of 43% of P&G's roughly $80 billion in annual sales, including the beauty and grooming businesses that are the company's most profitable and strategically crucial.

Deb Henretta, who had been group president-global beauty, will become group president over global e-business, a new post. She had seemingly the most well rounded resume of candidates to succeed Mr. Lafley, combining experience running the company's Asia business with more recent experience running beauty.

But like others heading the beauty business in the past decade, Ms. Henretta had yet to get the business growing at the pace of key global competitors, with such key brands as Olay and Pantene struggling to grow and maintain market shares.

Mr. Taylor, seen in this video talking management at his alma mater Duke University, where he studied engineering, has less current experience than Ms. Henretta in developing markets and beauty, though he ran P&G's China business and hair care in that country from 1998 to 2001. While Ms. Henretta was close to Mr. Lafley when both worked in the laundry business in the 1980s and '90s and was championed by him when he became CEO in 2000, Mr. Taylor was seen by many in the company more as a protégé of former Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald, who left in 2013 as Mr. Lafley returned to the top job. Mr. Taylor's family and home-care businesses, which he ran from 2005 to 2013, had been P&G's most successful from a top-line perspective during that period.

The appointments, first reported by Fortune.com, "are another step forward in improving strategies, capabilities and plans on key business priorities where P&G needs to win," said spokesman Paul Fox in an e-mail. "It will continue to make us a simpler, more focused company that is faster growing and creating greater value."

Patrice Louvet, who had been group president-global prestige, cosmetics and salon professional following management changes late last year, now becomes group president-global beauty. So Mr. Taylor, while he'll be taking on what's proved to be P&G's longest-running turnaround effort in beauty, won't be responsible for it alone. He'll continue to oversee a grooming business whose key brand -- Gillette -- also faces growing competitive and marketplace challenges, and a health business that's growing but considerably smaller than those of most rivals.

Mr. Lafley, 67, has announced no plans or timetable for a second retirement. And Mr. Fox said: "We have a CEO and he is fully focused on the business."

On why the new e-business role to be staffed by Ms. Henretta was created, he said it's "an area of business focus for us, as to win with consumers and shoppers now and in the future, we have to equally provide them with the best possible shopping experience whether they choose to shop online or in a brick-and-mortar store."

P&G's top e-business job previously had been handled at the VP level by Alex Tosolini, who left in October to become senior VP-new business development for Kroger Co., also based in Cincinnati.

Bernstein Research analyst Ali Dibadj, who previously had identified Mr. Taylor as front-runner to become the next CEO based on the performance of his businesses, said in a research note that today's move was consistent with his expectations.

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