Andrea Jung, the longest serving female CEO at a major American corporation, will soon be out of a job. It was announced today that Avon Products is launching an executive search to replace its 12-year chairman and chief. Once found, Jung will step aside.
The Wall Street Journal today notes that it is very unusual for a company to publicize a CEO search while the current one remains, but also points out that the 125-year-old beauty company has seen its stock drop by 45% this year. She will remain and help the board recruit her replacement next year.
While 2011 started off well for Avon, as Jung cheered first-quarter profit that nearly tripled from a year ago and a growing independent sales force of 6.5 million representatives, a third quarter earnings report said sales targets would be unattainable and admitted two ongoing SEC inquiries as problematic.
The three-year probe into an alleged bribery of foreign officials has already caused the firing of four Avon executives and increased investor concern. When approached earlier this year, Jung wouldn’t comment on the matter.
I am always curious about these issues. Having lived all over the world and knowing the types of markets where AVON is trying to expand, I am sure that bribery is part of the everyday way to do business in some of those countries at very high levels. It is a reality that many US corporations face abroad.
This year has shaken up the small percentage 3% of women in the high-powered executive ranks. Yahoo‘s Carol Bartz was fired over the phone just months ago, on the same day that Sallie Krawcheck left her post at Bank of America. Meanwhile, IBM hired its first female chief, Ginni Rometty, in its 100-year history, and Meg Whitman returned to the spotlight as CEO of HP.
Jung, 53, has been a longtime champion of women’s empowerment, often emphasizing Avon’s role in offering entrepreneurial employment opportunities to the 95% female reps who sell its products. She is also one of the few female faces on the boards of Apple and General Electric. She was ranked at No. 64 this year on the FORBES list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.