By  on June 21, 2007

NEW YORK — Liz Claiborne Inc. is splitting.

Seven months after becoming chief executive officer, William L. McComb has made his biggest round yet of executive layoffs and reorganization. McComb is scrapping the group president role and literally dividing Claiborne's portfolio between "power brands" and the rest — a hint of more changes to come at the company's July 11 Investors Day meeting. In addition, it indicates some of the brands McComb could sell, spin off or close — a strategy he has openly discussed as a way to get the $4.99 billion Claiborne back on the growth path.

Following the language he has been using to describe Claiborne's "power brands," McComb is "delayering" the company and dividing it into "a brand-centric, vertically organized direct brands division and a customer-focused, cost-efficient partnered brands division."

Claiborne president Trudy Sullivan will run the less sexy of the two new divisions, which includes Liz Claiborne/Claiborne, Monet and the Moderate Department Store Brands; C&C California, Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy, Enyce, Laundry by Design, Mac & Jac/Kensie and Prana; exclusive brands for J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Sears; DKNY Jeans and DKNY Active, and cosmetics and fragrances. Sullivan will continue to report to McComb.

Jill Granoff, formerly group president of direct-to-consumer, is being promoted to executive vice president of direct brands. Granoff will be responsible for Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand and Sigrid Olsen, as well as the company's outlet and e-commerce business. In a further shake-up of the executive suite, Granoff will report to McComb — effectively placing her on the same level as Sullivan.

The direct brands will receive more time and talent investment going forward, and all of their parts — from accessories to international — will be run under their own direct management. "We want to give them the full organizational structure that Coach had when it was sprung out of Sara Lee," McComb said.

Granoff fared well in the elimination of Claiborne's group presidents. After shaking up the group president structure in February, McComb let go two — possibly three — of the senior executives that held that role.

"Jill brings a tremendously broad range of experience from Victoria's Secret, Estée Lauder and as a consultant," McComb said. "In the last year, she proved her mettle as group president in charge of direct-to-consumer, consistently exceeding expectations."

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