Sophie Gasperment

Managing director, L'Oreal U.K.

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Sophie Gasperment faces perhaps her biggest challenge yet: The managing director of L'Oreal in the U.K. has to make the $1.2 billion acquisition of the Body Shop chain fit into L'Oreal's extensive portfolio.

Ms. Gasperment's track record since taking over the L'Oreal operation in the U.K. has been impressive. She oversaw the launch of the Men's Expert line in 2005 and watched the male skincare market grow by 50%. L'Oreal went from a 23% share of the market to a 32% share in 2006, making the U.K. L'Oreal's leading country for the Expert line.

She helped make Maybelline Dream Matte Foundation the U.K.'s best-selling foundation and extended it into blush and body shimmer. "When we first saw the product, we thought, 'What the hell is that?' " Ms. Gasperment recalls, calling the packaging "a bulky glass pot with light mousse inside." She says that "When we put it into test, people loved the fact that it was different. The results were outstanding."

She will now play a key role in making the Body Shop deal work. However, the retail chain is still a stand alone business of the L'Oreal Group, and as the acquisition was only completed last July, Ms. Gasperment says it's too early to go into detail about the company's plans.

Ms. Gasperment, 41, stumbled across L'Oreal 20 years ago when she arrived early for an interview with a management consultancy. With 2 hours to kill, she wandered into a L'Oreal presentation to graduates. She loved the speakers' "passion, energy and decisiveness"; interviewed; and had a job a few hours later.

After 13 years at L'Oreal's Paris headquarters, Ms. Gasperment moved to London with her banker husband and their son and daughter, now 13 and 15, when he was offered a job there. (The couple had another daughter, now 1 year old, in London.) Ms. Gasperment became general manager of the L'Oreal Paris brand and was promoted to her current role three years ago.

"Sophie is a great combination-she's smart as hell and demanding but utterly charming," says Rupert Howell, president of McCann Erickson Europe, Middle East and Africa. "People will do anything for her. She has built up a fantastic team around her and is very good at delegating."

"I put together teams of people with different nationalities and different thinking," Ms. Gasperment says. "It generates the best creative thinking in all areas."


* Mission: Incorporate Body Shop into L'Oréal portfolio

* Works in U.K. market where L'Oréal tops even P&G
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