SEATTLE - Avon Products Inc President Elizabeth Smith is leaving the company to pursue her ambition of being a chief executive, the world's leading direct seller of cosmetics said on Thursday.
Avon did not say if Smith already had landed a CEO job elsewhere. Avon spokeswoman Sharon Samuel said Smith had not finalized her plans. Smith is leaving effective Oct. 30.
The business units that reported to Smith, who became president in 2007, will now report to Avon CEO Andrea Jung, the company said. Smith, 46, was responsible for leading Avon's global marketing, supply chain and information technology units. She also later took charge of global sales.
Smith's decision to pursue her CEO aspirations elsewhere comes as Avon's Jung marks 10 years at the company's helm in 2009. Smith's time at the New York-based company pales in comparison to Jung, who joined Avon in 1994 after a short stint at Neiman Marcus.
Under Jung's leadership, Avon has undertaken extensive restructuring since 2005, including steps to revamp its supply chain, shed product lines, cut jobs and slash costs as it tries to refresh sales and profitability. The company has also focused on recruiting efforts, as more people seeking some form of income in the economic slump take to selling its products.
And at 51, Jung is in no hurry to move on.
We've said before that Andrea remains very committed to leading Avon, and at age 51, she has no immediate plans to stop working, spokeswoman Samuel said via email. She's committed to leading Avon though its post-turnaround era of growth.
The news of Smith's departure underscored Jung's intentions to stay with Avon for the foreseeable future, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Mark Astrachan wrote in a note. The departure may only cause some near-term disruptions to business, he said.
We believe momentum in representative growth will continue to positively contribute to improving revenue and operating profit trends over the balance of 2009 and 2010, Astrachan said.
Avon has no immediate plans to replace Smith, whose prior experience included 14 years at Kraft Foods Inc. She is also a board member at office supplies retailer Staples Inc.
Earlier this year, department store operator J.C. Penney Co Inc also lost its president to CEO aspirations.
Ken Hicks, who joined Penney in 2002 and held the president and chief merchandising officer post since 2005, quit to take the top job at athletic-shoe retailer Foot Locker Inc.
Avon shares were up 21 cents to $32.90 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman in Seattle; additional reporting by Brad Dorfman in Chicago, editing by Dave Zimmerman)