SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Rising star Emma Walmsley has stunned China's luxury marketing community by resigning her VP position at L'Oreal Group in Shanghai for a London-based international job at GlaxoSmithKline.
She will become GSK's president-consumer healthcare for Europe and president designate-worldwide consumer healthcare, starting May 1, 2010.
"Emma's appointment comes at an important time as we seek to diversify and further grow this business," said GSK CEO Andrew Witty.
For the past two years, Ms. Walmsley has run the French cosmetics giant's consumer products division, which includes the global brands L'Oreal Paris, Maybelline and Garnier as well as Mininurse, a Chinese skincare brand acquired by L'Oreal in 2003.
She joined L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics maker, 14 years ago and has held marketing roles in Paris, London, and New York but her achievements in China, according to company insiders surprised by her departure, made her a strong contender for a senior global management role at L'Oreal.
That's just the role Ms. Walmsley -- a U.K. native with a masters degree in Classics and Modern languages from Oxford University -- was offered at the British pharmaceutical company.
She will have operational responsibility for GSK's European business and brands, succeeding Manfred Scheske. Within two years, global leadership for the consumer healthcare business will pass from John Clarke, president, worldwide consumer healthcare, to Ms. Walmsley.
"In just under three years, Emma has greatly accelerated the growth in L'Oreal's China consumer business. She has a strong track record and experience in fast-moving-consumer-goods marketing in both established and emerging markets. She joins us from a company which, like ours, has a strong scientific research base," Mr. Clarke said.
Under Ms. Walmsley's leadership, L'Oreal aggressively pursued growth in China through innovations on global brands, new product launches and investment in sales and distribution.
The company achieved the biggest gain in market share among the top 10 players in the country, according to Paolo Gasparrini, L'Oreal's president, China at a press conference in Shanghai last month.
L'Oreal controlled 11.7% of China's cosmetics market share last year by volume, he added, up 0.7% from 2008. Last month, the company reported 17.7% growth in full-year 2009 sales to RMB 8.18 billion ($1.19 billion) in China, a double-digit increase for the ninth consecutive year.
In 2009, L'Oreal overtook Procter & Gamble Co.'s Olay as the most-advertised brand in China. Ad spending on Olay shrank 5% last year, while spending on L'Oreal rose 65%, according to CTR Market Research.
Total ad spending by L'Oreal Group grew 56% in 2009, according to Nielsen Co., making the French company China's third-largest multinational marketer last year, following P&G and Unilever.
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