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Eco Beauty Genius Yves Rocher Dead at 79

Godfrey Deeny
December 28th, 2009 @ 00:21 AM - Paris

Yves Rocher, the French industrialist who founded a business empire on the concept of “beauty through plants” died of a stroke on Saturday in Paris. He was 79.

Rocher, who was born in the northwest French province of Morbihan in Brittany, was an early mover in ecological beauty. He founded his company, which today employs 15,000 people worldwide, in 1959 after he began selling in the classified pages of French daily Ici Paris a cure for hemorrhoids supplied to him by a Breton traditional healer. Following that success, Rocher created his own eponymous brand creating cosmetics based on natural plants and refusing to use any synthetic products.

Rocher passed away in the Lariboisiere hospital in Paris, and his family immediately announced that his grandson Bris Rocher, who has been since 2003 the company’s vice president, would succeed him as president.

Rocher was born on April 7, 1930 in the Morbihan town of La Gacilly, where he went on to be mayor for four decades, until stepping down last year.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy called him a “great French industrialist, inventor of cosmetics based on vegetable products and pioneer of mail-order sales. Yves Rocher knew how to construct step by step a group devoted to the beauty of women, invest in durable business development and the protection of the environment, notably through his foundation, Yves Rocher-Institut de France.”

Often celebrated in France as “an ecologist before everyone else,” Rocher, back in 1965, had already published “The Green Book of Beauty,” which has since been transacted into 30 languages.

Though he founded his business on mail-order deliveries, by the late Sixties he began opening beauty boutiques, launching his first beauty center on Paris’ Boulevard Haussmann in 1969. Today, Yves Rocher boasts 2,000 sales points in more than 30 countries, with over 40 million clients worldwide.

The Group Yves Rocher, which is still 75-percent family owned, has a diversified portfolio including such brands as Daniel Jouvance, Dr. Pierre Ricaud, Petit Bateau and Stanhome. In 2008, this extended French group scored total revenues of over 2 billion euros, or $2.88 billion at current exchange rates.

Despite the international expansion, Rocher remained deeply attached to his Breton origins, and maintained several manufacturing plants, providing employing for several hundred people, in his native town of La Gacilly. Rocher even created a “vegetarium” in the region, a modern museum dedicated to the world of plants where artisans in this sector could practice their skills.

Rocher retired in 1992, when he handed over the reins of his empire to his son Didier, but retook control in January 1995 following the accidental death of his successor.

His sons Daniel and Jacques Rocher, plus an extended family including his grandson and latest successor Bris Rocher survive him.

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