Reckitt Benckiser

Andrew Hill

With scent and skincare giant Coty’s $10bn bid approach for Avon Products, the descendants of Johannes Benckiser have put Bart Becht straight back to work.

Lady Gaga’s first perfume 'Monster', made in conjunction with Coty, is due to be released this year. Image by AFP/Getty

Lady Gaga’s first perfume 'Monster', made in conjunction with Coty, is due to be released this year. Image by AFP/Getty

Mr Becht stepped down last summer as a highly acclaimed (and paid) chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, the listed household goods and personal care group in which private family company Joh A Benckiser has a 15 per cent stake. By November, with the applause of Reckitt’s investors still ringing in his ears, he had stepped in to chair another Benckiser holding – unlisted Coty, the biggest fragrance company in the world, with perfume brands from Calvin Klein to Lady Gaga’s forthcoming ‘Monster’.

For all the soft-focus marketing of Coty’s products, Mr Becht’s “Dear Andrea” letter to his Avon counterpart Andrea Jung is as direct as the sales pitch for his former employer’s popular Cillit Bang grime-cleaner. The Dutchman writes:

We were surprised and disappointed that Avon’s Board of Directors has no interest in a discussion to explore our acquisition proposal…. We do not understand how your Board’s unwillingness to discuss our proposal can serve the best interests of Avon’s shareholders.

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Andrew Hill

Rakesh Kapoor has been in charge of Reckitt Benckiser for less than a  year but already he’s changed the world. Or, more accurately, he’s changed Reckitt’s view of the world, by merging its European and North American operations into one Amsterdam-based unit, and splitting the rest of the world into two reporting areas.

Like three ugly sisters, the new operations are called Ena, Rumea (Russia, Middle East, Africa) and Lapac (Latin America and Asia-Pacific). Stefan Wagstyl has pointed out on the FT beyondbrics blog that the clear message is that “emerging markets matter” for the multinational consumer goods group.

Reckitt’s change is more than a laborious redrafting of the corporate organigram. Pankaj Ghemawat wrote in World 3.0 that General Motors’ decision to make many of its non-US, non-European operations report to China was “a basic realignment of power”. The impact of Reckitt’s move to aim resources more directly at growing markets could be just as profound. Read more