Hubert Sagnières, 53, is expected to take the place of Xavier Fontanet, who will be 60 years old next Sept. 9, when he retires as chairman and chief executive of Essilor, possibly within two or three years' time. He is already set to replace one year from now the present chief operating and financial officer, Philippe Alfroid, who is now 62 years old and will take his retirement in 2010.

At Essilor's annual shareholders' meeting last month, Sagnières was elected as a member of the board, while Alfroid saw his directorship extended for three years. Fontanet told the assembly that Sagnières will be the new member of a trio that will run the group for the next few years. Like Alfroid, he will report to him as an executive vice president.

Sagnières has been given credit for turning the North American continent into a formidable powerhouse for Essilor, representing 42 percent of group sales in spite of the weak dollar. The group is now trying to replicate this success in Asia and other emerging markets around the world.

A graduate of the Massachussets Institute of Technology, Sagnières entered the group 20 years ago after working for the Boston Consulting Group, Beneteau and Eurest. He started off in Essilor's marketing department. He then moved to the USA in 1996 to develop the business there, running it from 1998 to 2005. Stationed in Montreal, he then took responsibility for all of North America and for Europe.

In other recent management changes, Cyrille de Montvalon, who was running Essilor's Italian subsidiary, is now in charge of group operations throughout Southern Europe. Marcel Pohl, who has been sales manager of Essilor in Germany, has left to take care of business development throughout Europe. Michel Boinet has left his position as managing director of Essilor UK to return to Essilor Europe for a new assignment that could not be determined at press time. While the company looks for a successor, Michel Crombé, who held the position before Boinet, will take over the responsibilities of the job.