Health-minded Nestlé recruits Allergan exec to drive big ambitions for skincare unit

Nestlé said it was serious about taking on its larger rivals in the dermatology field. Now, it’s poaching from one of its competitors to gain a leader for that fight.

Soon after bringing in a pharma veteran to serve as CEO, the food giant tapped an Allergan exec--Paul Navarre, president of Allergan’s international business--to succeed Humberto Antunes as chief of Nestlé Skin Health. Antunes is leaving to pursue a “new direction,” the company said.

Navarre, for his part, will bring along plenty of skincare experience to bear on Nestlé's ambitions. Allergan markets a suite of skin and cosmetic treatments, including the blockbuster wrinkle treatment Botox, and while the drug’s bread and butter is the U.S. market, it pulled in $399.5 million outside the country in the first half of 2016.

Not coincidentally, Nestlé has co-marketing rights to Dysport, a Botox rival, outside the U.S. and Canada, as well as several other injectable cosmetic treatments the Swiss giant bought from Valeant for $1.4 billion in 2014. So, Navarre's skincare and aesthetics experience may be exactly what Nestlé needs to make the most of that portfolio, which includes Restylane, Perlane and Emervel, among others.

The Swiss company sees healthcare as a way to diversify beyond the sluggish food business, and it has targeted deals such as the Valeant buy to do just that. Other deals have followed; earlier this year, for instance, it formed a joint venture with Guthy-Renker, marketer of Proactiv--one of the world’s best-selling acne treatments.

Nestlé has also been a subject of recent rumors concerning Bayer’s $1.1 billion dermatology business, which the German drugmaker may hive off to help fund its mammoth Monsanto buy. However, the names of plenty of other players, including Teva, Almirall and Allergan, have been involved in those rumors, too.

Meanwhile, Navarre isn’t Nestlé’s only recent hire with experience in the healthcare field. In late June, the company selected Ulf Mark Schneider--former CEO of German pharma Fresenius--to take over its own chief exec role.

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