Online Exclusive: Bernd Beetz Honored at Awards Dinner

Fragrance executives “toasted and roasted” the former CEO of Coty, Inc as they paid tribute to his extraordinary skills used to build today’s fragrance industry.

By Jamie Matusow, Editor

Former Coty CEO Bernd Beetz was toasted repeatedly at a dinner at The St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan

Beetz takes a ribbing from Catherine Walsh.
on October 11, as a visionary credited with not only reviving a stale group of brands when he took the reigns at Coty 10 years ago, but for refreshing and revitalizing the entire fragrance industry.

The occasion was The Fragrance Foundation’s 13th annual Circle of Champions Award dinner, and hundreds from the industry gathered to show Beetz just how much they applauded all of his endeavors in growing the perfume business to its current proportions.

Elizabeth Musmanno, recently selected as the new president of The Fragrance Foundation, made her first public appearance, and welcomed guests to the event.

Carol Russo, senior vice president sales and marketing NA, The Estée Lauder Companies, stepped to the podium to introduce Beetz as “a fragrance visionary.”

Camille MacDonald, last year’s Circle of Champions recipient remarked that the award captures the industry at its finest and funniest. The president of brand development and merchandising for Bath & Body Works credited Beetz as “reinventing the entire business model and jumpstarting an entire category that had been stagnating.” In reference to his leaving Coty, she remarked: “I can’t wait to see what you do next.”

Don Loftus leads off the roast.

Next to take the podium was Don Loftus, president and CEO, P&G Prestige, U.S., the 2009 recipient of the award, who, with a great sense of humor, set the tone for the roast aspect of the evening, and soon had those in attendance laughing out loud. He revealed that he had been somewhat intimidated at the prospect of joking about the CEO who often appeared stern, describing him as a cross between Daniel Craig and Arnold Schwarzenegger—sort of a German James Bond.

Steve Mormoris, VP global marketing at Coty, kidded Beetz about the language barrier that sometimes exists between him and his team, but said that it never affects his abilities to manage. “It’s been an amazing adventure at Coty, said Mormoris, “and Bernd has been a champion to me and to everyone in this room.”

Upon her first meeting with Beetz when Coty was interested in purchasing skincare brand philosophy, founder Christina Carlino, said, “I had never met anyone like him.” She said that she is sure he will lead something bigger than the industry someday—and added: I would like to go with him anywhere.”

Beetz with some of his toaster/roasters. (L-R): Wang, Beetz, Carlino, Walsh, Mormoris, Jones.

Harvard Business School professor Geoffrey Jones paid tribute to Beetz for “taking a ratty group of brands and shaping it into a powerhouse.” He also spoke of Beetz’s commitment to periodically lecturing Harvard’s MBA students on his management techniques.

Vera Wang, who has been a Coty partner for a number of fragrances, described Beetz as “a multi, multi, multi-faceted man who brings it all to the business, adding, “he has always been there for me.”

From the Start
When Beetz took the helm at Coty 10 years ago, so did Catherine Walsh, now senior vice president marketing, American fragrances, Coty Prestige. The two admitted that they weren’t quite sure of just what they were signing on for back then, but Beetz proposed, “Let’s do it together.” And together, they built a multi-billlion dollar celebrity fragrance business, starting with Walsh’s historic signing of Jennifer Lopez.

Walsh described Beetz as a vagabond, a nomad—which makes him unique.” She said, like with skiing and rowing, two sports Beetz is passionate about, the journey is more fulfilling than any destination for him.”

Following video tributes from absentee members of Coty’s executive team, including Michele Scannavini, Coty’s new CEO, and Renato Semerari, who were in France at the time, Beetz took the podium.

In a manner that mirrored his keen sense of humor (although many at the roast insisted he had none) and organizational acumen, he one by one addressed each roaster’s comments with succinct rejoinders.

“Let me recap,” Beetz began: I’m mean, I’m not funny and no one knows what I’m saying.”

He graciously accepted the award, saying the prize was for work his teams had been doing.

He also addressed all those in the room, saying, “All of us [in this room] have succeeded in the past 10 years to build this industry.”

And, specifically, as far as fashion and designer fragrances, he said, “Fragrance is now an integral part of building a brand.”

All in the room acknowledged that this year’s Circle of Champions award went to the right person—and all wished Beetz well wherever his roaming path may take him.

(Photos:Gerald Janssen)