Sally Beauty names its first woman CEO

Denton-based Sally Beauty Holdings has its first female chief executive officer.

Denise Paulonis, 49, a former chief financial officer at Irving-based Michaels, comes to Sally Beauty from Sprouts Farmers Market, where she had been CFO since February 2020.

She will succeed Chris Brickman, 56, on Oct. 1. Brickman has been CEO since 2012 and will remain on a consulting basis through March “to support an orderly transition,” the company said.

Paulonis has been on Sally Beauty’s board since 2018. She was at arts and crafts retailer Michaels from 2014 to 2020 and held several executive positions from 2000 to 2014 at PepsiCo, McKinsey & Co. and Bank of America.

Sally Beauty is a wholesaler of professional hair color and retailer of hair and beauty products through 5,000 stores. Brickman said in a statement that he believes “the best is yet to come for Sally Beauty.” He led the company through a transition that included upgrades in its e-commerce, a modern loyalty program, significant improvements in technology and the pandemic.

Denise Paulonis has been named president and chief executive officer of Sally Beauty Holdings. Her start date at the Denton-based company is Oct. 1.
Denise Paulonis has been named president and chief executive officer of Sally Beauty Holdings. Her start date at the Denton-based company is Oct. 1.

“As the company emerges from the hard work of its transformation, both the board and Chris agree that now is the right time for a change in leadership,” said Robert McMaster, chairman of Sally Beauty.

The board “unanimously believe Denise is the right leader to drive the next stage of the company’s growth,” McMaster said.

Sally Beauty stock has gained about 40% so far this year as earnings and sales strengthen. For the nine months ended June 30, Sally Beauty had an almost 13% increase in sales to $2.88 billion from a year ago and more than tripled its profit to $171.7 million.

“As a current board member, I know first-hand what a driven team this is, and I could not be more excited to hit the ground running,” Paulonis said. “We have an amazing opportunity to propel the company into its next chapter.”

Cowen Research said in a note Wednesday that the transition has been in the making for some time and called Paulonis “a strong strategic thinker and experienced public company CFO.”

“Our take is that both in-store innovation and a more connected digital and physical experience are very important priorities,” Cowen said. “Furthermore, we believe the footprint of the entire global store base should be continuously evaluated.”

One more big challenge faces Paulonis, Cowen said: the important task of retaining and engaging more new Gen Z and Millennial customers into the brand’s business of do-it-yourself hair culture and color innovation.

Vivid hair color sales continue to bring younger customers to Sally Beauty Supply.

Paulonis will be paid a salary of $1.1 million with a target annual bonus of 150% of her salary. She will receive a sign-on bonus of $400,000, $1.45 million in restricted stock and $1 million in stock options. She is also eligible for a long-term incentive award valued at $4.25 million.

Brickman has entered into a separation agreement that includes up to $500,000 in consulting pay and up to 24,202 in performance-based restricted stock plus accelerated time-based awards of 275,570 stock options and 99,087 restricted shares.

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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