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Robert J. Wichser to Oversee Yucaipa’s Fashion Portfolio

Robert J. Wichser, president and chief executive officer of Sean John, has been named a principal at The Yucaipa Cos. LLC, the private equity firm that holds a stake in the urban fashion brand.

NEW YORK — Robert J. Wichser, president and chief executive officer of Sean John, has been named a principal at The Yucaipa Cos. LLC, the private equity firm that holds a stake in the urban fashion brand.

An official announcement is expected today.

In his new position, Wichser will continue to oversee and monitor the growth strategies of Sean John while adding oversight of Yucaipa’s other apparel and luxury investments, which include ownership of English jeweler Garrard and stakes in London jeweler Stephen Webster, the specialty retailer Scoop and designer label Zac Posen. Wichser will also explore additional investment opportunities in the fashion arena for Yucaipa.

Wichser, 57, will remain in his role at Sean John likely through the end of this year until a replacement for his position is found. He and company founder Sean “Diddy” Combs will work with executive search firm Kirk Palmer & Assoc. to fill the position.

“Bob has done a wonderful job since he joined Sean John a little over two years ago,” said Combs in a statement. “Although we will miss the day-to-day contact with him, Bob will continue to be extremely involved in strategic initiatives that will help Sean John grow as a premiere global brand.”

Wichser, a 35-year veteran of the apparel industry, was named president and ceo of Sean John in May 2005, prior to which he was president and ceo of JA Apparel Corp. His earlier experience includes stints at Evan-Picone and Warnaco Group Inc.

“We are fortunate to have an executive with Bob’s record of success move full-time to Yucaipa,” said Ron Burkle, the billionaire founder and managing director of the Los Angeles–based investment firm. Burkle is listed as the 117th richest American in Forbes. “As we continue to grow our apparel and luxury brand investments, I look forward to the opportunities and invaluable experience he will bring to us. We continue to support our partners and investment in Sean John, and believe this promotion will benefit Sean John as well as our other investments.”

Yucaipa acquired a minority stake in Sean John for an estimated $100 million in 2003. Combs remains the majority owner of the company, while the Sani family, an early backer of the brand, also retains a minority share.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Founded in 1986, The Yucaipa Cos. made its name with a series of high-profile acquisitions and sales of grocery chains like Ralphs and Dominick’s. More recently, the firm has diversified its investments into media and fashion. This past May, a company in Yucaipa’s portfolio acquired 76 specialty magazine titles, including Motor Trend and Surfer, from Primedia Inc.