NEW YORK — The Jones Group Inc. is about to get a fresh and analytical eye to help rejuvenate its business.
Investor James Mitarotonda, chairman and chief executive officer of Barington Capital Group, is set to become a director of the company at its annual meeting today.
That will expand the number of directors on Jones’ board to 11 and bring inside an investor who has taken stakes in and advocated for change at The Warnaco Group Inc., Dillard’s Inc., Nautica, Harry Winston and others.
Barington, which controls about 2.3 percent of Jones’ stock, is seen as a constructive activist, which seeks to work collaboratively with the management of undervalued firms that need sprucing up. Barington has also proven its willingness to go directly to shareholders to try to bring about change it wants. The investor was part of a group that went several rounds with Dillard’s before the staid department store agreed to take on new board members.
“I do think he was very helpful in challenging the Dillard’s board and the Dillard’s way,” said retail veteran Allen Questrom, who knows Mitarotonda and has himself led turnarounds at J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Macy’s and Barneys New York. “He’s helped the Dillard’s company, the Dillard’s family.”
Dillard’s did not return a request for comment on its experience with Barington.
Questrom said activist investors can challenge the status quo at a company and are not always welcome, but can also open people’s eyes if they are analytical in their approach, as Mitarotonda is.
“If you have a company that’s not doing well and it has not done well for several years, I would welcome somebody like that, who I believe is analytical and looks at lots of different companies,” Questrom said.
Mitarotonda, who cofounded Barington in 1991 and got his start in the Bloomingdale’s executive training program, might serve as a catalyst at Jones, as he did at Warnaco.
Barington led a group that bought 5.6 percent of Warnaco in 2006 and urged, among other things, that the company explore the disposition of its underperforming intimates and swimwear businesses.
Joseph Gromek, former president and chief executive officer of Warnaco, said he met with Mitarotonda several times that summer. And while many of his suggestions were things Warnaco was already considering, he added some fuel to the fire.
“With Jim leaning on us, we probably took action a little sooner rather than later,” Gromek said. “I find Jim to be a straightforward, solid business guy. He was not unpleasant to deal with. In the end, we implemented some of the suggestions he had….And I think all of our shareholders did very well, including Barington. Jim was constructive, he was not destructive.”
Mitarotonda helped Warnaco trim some of its brands and focus in on its larger businesses, such as Calvin Klein.
Similar steps could be taken at Jones, which has 35 brands, but just six that it considers core, including Nine West and Jones New York, and six that are “emerging,” such as Stuart Weitzman and Kurt Geiger.
Analyst Janet Kloppenburg, said Jones has some “fantastic brand franchises” and could do more with them.
“The problem is that you don’t have the legacy brands generating the kind of profitability that would enable you to deliver industry-average, top- and bottom-line growth and then you could fuel these newer businesses,” Kloppenburg said.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye