By  on May 17, 2006

NEW YORK — Harvé Benard Ltd. has owned the GarfieldMarks brand for only five weeks but is already shaking things up.

The $100 million company, which purchased the trademarks for the GarfieldMarks, Womyn and iAlex-Alex Garfield labels last month, has let go of the company's co-founder, Alex Garfield.

"Since we took over the company about five weeks ago, we've been spending a lot of time learning how the company works, speaking with customers and evaluating the people we retained with this acquisition," said Howard Sheer, president of Harvé Benard, which also produces better women's sportswear and outerwear under the Harvé Benard brand, as well as sportswear under the New Frontier label. "We were also trying to establish a role for Alex, a role that he sees himself in. He was supposed to work on some public relations, marketing and public appearances, which I agree are tough to do during this time of year."

Sheer and Bernard Holtzman, Harvé Benard's co-owners, came up with a mutual agreement with Garfield that he would exit the firm.

"He came to us and said he was unhappy with the way things were going and he never found what his role was in the business," Sheer continued, "so we all agreed that the best thing for everyone was for him to leave."

Garfield said that after spending some time with his new parent firm, he began to see clashes in corporate culture.

"We made a mutual decision that our talents together were not a fit," he said. "In the next several weeks, I will be considering what my next career move will be."

In addition to Garfield's exit, the company has let go Dianne Beaudry, GarfieldMarks' long-time designer. The firm has hired a new design director, Brian Cook, who has worked in design posts for Kellwood and Tommy Hilfiger.

In business since 1993, GarfieldMarks, then known as the GM Design Group, has gone through numerous ups and downs. In its heyday in the mid-Nineties, the brand generated $60 million in wholesale volume and was sold at Nordstrom, Belk and Parisian department stores, as well as 1,100 small specialty stores. Co-founder Garfield and his partner, Bernie Marks, sold the company to Pegasus Capital Advisors in 2000. Shortly after the deal closed, Garfield and Marks left the firm, although they still owned a 50 percent stake in it.Garfield said he returned to GM Design Group in August 2004 when Jones Texas Inc. acquired it. Jones' chairman and chief executive officer, Edward M. Jones 3rd, left the company in September, and the GM Design Group became a lender and borrower of GMAC Commercial Finance LLC. It was then that Garfield began searching for another partner, and felt comfortable with Harvé Benard.

At the time of the purchase, Holtzman seemed happy with Garfield and his staff.

"We want to keep design and sales separate so that we can keep GarfieldMarks as pure as it is today," he said in an interview last month. "They already have a very strong team with wonderful design talent, and we think we can make this brand even more stellar."

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