Kellwood Co. has a new chief executive.
Five months after Sun Capital Partners Inc. took over the $1 billion vendor, Kellwood on Thursday appointed Michael Kramer, chief financial officer and executive vice president for Abercrombie & Fitch Co., as president and ceo.
This story first appeared in the July 25, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
He replaces Robert C. Skinner Jr., confirming a May 8 report in WWD that the company was searching for a new ceo.
As changes have proliferated at Kellwood in the last few months — from terminating licenses to moving its sourcing and executives exiting — speculation had mounted that Sun Capital would look to fill the long-suffering vendor’s top spot with its own man. According to the company, Skinner will resign to pursue other interests.
“Bob’s leadership during this transition period has been very helpful in aligning Kellwood’s senior management team around our core strategies and to initiating their execution,” Christopher Metz, Sun Capital managing director, said.
Prior to A&F, Kramer, a certified public accountant, was chief financial officer for Apple Retail at Apple Inc., and has held financial positions at The Limited, Pizza Hut and Einstein Noah Bagel Corp.
As part of his separation package from A&F, Kramer will receive $775,000, the equivalent of his 12-month base salary; any earned incentive compensation for the period ending July 31, and accelerated vesting of 30,938 restricted stock units and 42,000 stock options.
According to Metz, Kramer’s “retail and apparel expertise coupled with his dynamic leadership skills will play a key role as we begin to implement our strategic plan to further maximize the intrinsic values inherent in our apparel portfolio.”
The St. Louis-based vendor’s portfolio includes the moderate Sag Harbor brand, successful urban juniors line Baby Phat, contemporary collection Vince and the small designer brand Hollywould. In addition, it includes high performers such as Gerber Childrenswear LLC and American Recreation Products Inc.
The company had been trying to stage a turnaround for years, ever since Skinner took over the ceo post in 2004. The executive tried to turn the company from a predominantly moderate vendor to a brand manager with higher-priced labels and its own retail. The numbers didn’t improve, however, and Sun Capital staged a hostile five-month takeover battle, which was fought by the management, including Skinner, who proposed a five-year strategic plan to satisfy shareholders and Wall Street. But Sun Capital finally managed to acquire Kellwood in February for $762 million.
Kellwood has been making sweeping changes since then. It closed its sourcing to outsource it to Li & Fung, according to sources. The company also shuttered its moderate dress division; the licenses for O Oscar and Liz Claiborne suits and dresses were terminated, and a deal with Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. for Calvin Klein’s better and bridge lines is said to be over.
Skinner joined Kellwood from Oxford Industries in 2000 as president of the men’s wear division. He quickly became then-chairman and ceo Hal J. Upbin’s heir apparent, being named president and chief operating officer in December 2003, then ceo in June 2004 and finally chairman in February 2006.