REPORTER'S NOTE BOOK: DIVESTITURE TALK SWIRLS AT COSMETICS CONFAB

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With one eye on regulatory policy and the other on sales, the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association gathered last week for its annual meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. Inside meeting rooms, the focus was on regulation, legislation and economic forecasting. But as Advertising Age cosmetics reporter Pat Sloan reveals, outside those meetings:

Not even if the price was right?: Corridor talk included continued speculation about possible divestitures, among them Procter & Gamble Co.'s Noxzema brand, Benckiser's Lancaster and Unilever's Elizabeth Arden. But Arden this week will announce a total image makeover, and Unilever is also interested in buying Donna Karan's cosmetics and fragrance business, an acquisition that has similarly piqued the interest of Estee Lauder Cos. As a matter of policy, Unilever does not comment on rumors, while executives from the other companies continued to deny any intent to sell.

A strong Curve: Buoyed by the surprising out-of-the-gate success of its Curve women's and men's fragrance launches last fall, Liz Claiborne Cosmetics is planning an $18 million introduction of Liz Sport and Claiborne Sport, another pair of women's and men's scents handled by Shepardson, Stern & Kaminsky, New York. That agency picked up the business after L'Oreal asked Gotham to drop the account because of possible conflicts. "These won't be like Ralph Lauren's Polo Sport, [they will be] more casual," said Claiborne Cosmetics President Neil Katz. Claiborne Cosmetics may have a new owner by then if parent Liz Claiborne Inc. finalizes discussions now under way with an investor group.

On the scent: Coty, which like the rest of the mass fragrance market did not have a banner Christmas, is not giving up on the category. Besides its $15 million spring launch of Nokomis via the Seiden Group, New York, Coty is working on one men's and one women's scent for fall with an estimated $25 million in marketing between them. The men's scent will be called Avatar, and Jerry &

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