Sassoon files suit against P&G

Source: Vidal Sassoon

Legal Action Alleges Systematic Neglect, Mismanagement, Sabotage and Destruction of Brand and Legendary Name P&G's Abandonment of Product, Refusal to Sell Back Leaves Sassoon "Contractual Prisoner"

Vidal Sassoon alleges that since P&G acquired his hair care brand through an acquisition of Richardson-Vicks in 1985, it systematically destroyed what took "a lifetime of passionate and single-minded dedication to build," leaving a heritage "in shambles" by withdrawing the big budget media and sophisticated marketing promised by P&G.

"I feel betrayed," stated Mr. Sassoon, regarded as one of the most influential hair stylists in the world. "I trusted one of the world's most powerful marketing machines when they assured me that my name represented a billion-dollar brand. Instead, they systematically decimated my brand -- despite the continued popularity of my product line.
It's not simply that the brand is my name -- it represents more than 50 years of my professional life. I won't be buried."

According to Mr. Sassoon, in spite of the Sassoon brand's continued success in Asia, where it is P&G's number one selling hair care line, P&G announced earlier this year that it was shelving indefinitely Sassoon products in the United States, Canada and Europe. The lawsuit asserts that P&G cannibalized the Sassoon name and product in recent years to support its other hair care brands, starving it of new products, advertising dollars, and vital shelf space in retail outlets. "Through a program of neglect and outright denial," the filing states, "P&G has turned the highly successful brand bearing the world-renowned name of the creator of a beauty revolution into the filler of bargain basement close-out bins."

"I am a contractual prisoner. I have attempted to get my name back from P&G, but it has rebuffed my efforts in fear that the Sassoon brand could effectively become a competitor in the hands of capable marketers," Mr. Sassoon added.

Sassoon also noted that the brand's great strength in Asia -- coupled with the continued licensing success of salons, hair dryers and related products -- validate the value of his name.

"This is a cautionary tale for any entrepreneur whose brand is their name," he added. "My name was entrusted in the hands of P&G, who left it devalued and orphaned. I want my name back. Who wouldn't under these circumstances?"

The Vidal Sassoon name has been synonymous with high fashion, glamour and style for more than 50 years. He is credited with transforming the profession of hair styling to a fashion leader, elevating the status of the professional hairdresser from a service provider to respected artist. Sassoon made his initial mark in London during the 1960s, revolutionizing hair styling as the creative architect of a radically new approach, spawning scores of imitators and achieving icon status along the way.

Through an exclusive licensing agreement, the hair products pioneer entrusted the stewardship of his name to Richardson-Vicks, Incorporated in 1985 and, subsequent to its acquisition, to P&G. Worldwide sales of approximately 40 Sassoon products approached $470 million in 1995, after which "P&G consistently ... squandered the hard earned equity of the Sassoon name, compromised the value of the brand, and promoted other hair care products -- for which P&G owed no royalties -- at the direct expense of Sassoon's brand image and value," the filing states.