Francois Dalle, who was chief executive of L'Oreal for 27 years and credited with transforming the French cosmetics company into a global giant, died Aug. 9 in Geneva, where he lived in retirement. He was 87. He was buried Aug. 12 at a private ceremony in Geneva, newspaper reports said. No cause of death was given.

Mr. Dalle was head of L'Oreal from 1957 to 1984, during which time the company acquired such prestigious cosmetics brands as Lancome, Garnier, Biotherm and Vichy.

He also was instrumental in expanding L'Oreal's market in Japan and the United States, where he worked before taking over direction of the company.

"Francois Dalle wrote a decisive chapter in the history of L'Oreal," Sir Lindsay Owen, the company's chairman and chief executive, said on L'Oreal's Web site.

"He turned L'Oreal, a brand known mostly in France, into a multibrand group built on innovation and for which he laid the foundations of its international development," Owen said.

Francois Leon Marie-Joseph Dalle was born March 18, 1918, in Hesdin, a small town in the Pas-de-Calais region in the north of France.

The son of a brewer, he studied law at the University of Paris and after practicing for two years, took a job in 1942 with French soap producer Monsavon. He later became director of one of Monsavon's factories, and it was there that he met Eugene Schueller, L'Oreal's founder and director, who had acquired the company.

Schueller, a chemist by training, founded L'Oreal in 1909, focusing on hair dyes and later expanding into soaps and shampoos.

Mr. Dalle moved to L'Oreal in 1948, where he was entrusted with improving the marketing of a company that still had only 25 employees and sold its products almost exclusively at hair salons.

He moved L'Oreal's products to retail stores in the 1950s, an innovative step when the majority of cosmetics products were sold at pharmacies.

When Schueller died in 1957, Mr. Dalle assumed control of the company, guiding its transformation over the next 27 years into the world's leading cosmetics producer.

From 1950 to 2001, Mr. Dalle also was a board member and vice president of Nestle and was instrumental in forging a formal relationship between the two companies. Nestle maintains a 26.4 percent interest in L'Oreal.

He also managed to secure lucrative licensing agreements with such top designer brands as Guy Laroche and Cacharel.

Mr. Dalle also was regularly sought out by French politicians from both the left and the right for advice on economic, industrial and employment issues. He was a commander of the Legion of Honor, an accolade that recognizes distinguished service to France.

His marriage to Genevieve-Clement ended in divorce.

Survivors include four sons and two daughters.