Global cosmetics giant L’Oréal has confirmed that Nicolas Hieronimus will replace its long-serving Chief Executive Jean-Paul Agon next year.

Agon, who is also the group’s Chairman, confirmed back in June that he would step down from the CEO role before his 65th birthday next July in line with legal requirements. He joined L’Oréal in 1978 and has been chief of the French firm since 2006.

Hieronimus will take over on 1 May. He joined L’Oréal 33 years ago and had been widely expected to take on the top job having been second-in-command since 2017. In his current role of Deputy CEO, he is in charge of the group’s luxury, skincare, and professional divisions, which bring in nearly 50% of sales.

Agon will remain with the business as Chairman, a role he has held since 2011. Company veteran Barbara Lavernos will take over the role of Deputy CEO.

Commenting on the change, Agon said: “Nicolas Hieronimus is an inspiring leader who has all the qualities required to be the CEO of L’Oréal. His great sensitivity to the needs and expectations of consumers, his perfect understanding of the spirit of the times, his marketing experience of beauty in all channels, countries and categories, his intimate knowledge of the Group’s brands and is ability to unite and engage teams make him the best candidate to lead L’Oréal.”

The company has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic after consumers stopped using makeup as they stayed at home, whilst beauty and hair salons were also forced to close.

However, the group has recently said that demand for its products had started to increase as countries exited lockdowns. L’Oréal also recently highlighted that the crisis has led to a surge in online activity and sales, particularly among previously wary older shoppers.

Despite the disruption, L’Oréal shares have risen almost 10% this year, with analysts saying investors would react favourably to the appointment of Hieronimus. Bruno Monteyne at Bernstein is quoted by the FT as saying: “The uncertainty surrounding the departing CEO has left a cloud over the stock recently, and this news should be reassuring in that this signals a high level of continuity … This should help to alleviate concerns that the new CEO would spell a change in strategy.”