Jean-Paul Agon sees himself as a revolutionary. A forty-year veteran at L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetics company, he was one of the first in the beauty business to realize the opportunities of the digital wave and he embraced it wholeheartedly. He transformed L’Oréal into what he calls a champion of “the new beauty tech world”. And Agon considers that his greatest achievement as CEO.
“The digital revolution was a fantastic change,” he says. “From the beginning I saw it as a major opportunity. I thought it would transform, for the better, the relationship with consumers. It would put consumers at the heart of the conception of the product and the development of the product. I thought also it was an incredible opportunity to grow faster than competitors. And that’s what happened.”
Thanks to Agon’s pioneering vision, he has built L’Oréal into a beauty powerhouse with revenues of $30 billion ranking it on the Fortune 500 list of the largest companies in the world. His aggressive push in China, introducing L’Oréal’s mass market and luxury cosmetics from Maybelline to Lancome to Chinese consumers, has made the Paris-based company the number one beauty company in the Asian nation.
Agon tells Fortune he will retire when he turns 65, in accordance with L’Oréal’s mandatory retirement age. But for now, as a spry 62-year-old, he does not like to speak about retirement, saying “I have not yet finished what I have to do”.
He says L’Oréal’s board will choose his successor. But he is quick to add, that he expects a woman to lead the cosmetics giant one day soon. He takes pride in his track record of promoting women in the workplace–50 percent of the executive ranks are women and half of L’Oréal’s board of directors are women too.
“Very soon a woman will be CEO of L’Oréal,” predicts Agon. “I don’t know if the next one or the following one, but very soon, obviously.”
Watch the video above for more of my interview with Agon.