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Sassoon Sues Procter & Gamble

California

The hairstylist claims that the company is destroying his hair-care brand through neglect.

April 02, 2003|Hanah Cho | Times Staff Writer

Vidal Sassoon, the influential hair designer who created Mia Farrow's pixie cut and other celebrated hairstyles of the 1960s, wants the rights to his name back.

Sassoon, 74, is suing Procter & Gamble Co., accusing the consumer products giant of destroying his brand by skimping on marketing in favor of the company's other hair product lines, most notably Pantene.

"I feel betrayed. The most important personal asset is my name," Sassoon said.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, comes in the wake of Procter & Gamble's recent decision to stop selling Sassoon's shampoos and styling products in the United States, Canada and Britain because of declining sales. The breach-of-contract and fraud suit also seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Sales of Procter & Gamble's various beauty care products exceeded $8 billion in 2002. Yet, Sassoon's brand had not been selling well, and P&G officials were disappointed with the results, according to spokeswoman Kim Vollbrecht.

Market research firm Information Resources Inc. said last year sales of Sassoon products fell 39% to about $24.6 million.

"We're disappointed that Mr. Sassoon has brought a lawsuit against the company," Vollbrecht said. "We've consistently supported this business and believe his suit has no merit."

Despite lackluster sales of his products in North America and Europe, Sassoon pointed to Japan, China and South Korea, where Sassoon products remain leading brands.

Sassoon contends that P&G failed to promote his products by investing advertising money and shelf space to other brands. Sales of his products reached $470 million in 1995, he said.

P&G obtained the rights to Sassoon's products when it acquired Richardson-Vicks in 1985. Procter & Gamble also makes Pantene, Cover Girl, Head & Shoulders and Noxzema.

While P&G produced new product lines for other brands, including Pantene, the Sassoon brand was "starved of a new brand," according to the lawsuit. "Through a program of neglect and outright denial, P&G has turned the highly successful brand ... into the filler of bargain basement close-out bins."

Shares of P&G rose 47 cents to $89.52 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.

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