By  on May 7, 2007

NEW YORK — When a retailer, fashion house or apparel supplier decides to change direction after losing faith in its chief executive officer or another top-level executive, the board almost never gives the executive a second chance.

The reason is simple: There is no time for that when the future of the company is at stake.

That's when Hal Reiter steps in. Reiter, chairman and ceo of Herbert Mines Associates, is a go-to man when a company in the industry launches a ceo search. In recent years the company has placed senior level executives at Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Liz Claiborne, Pier 1 Imports, Gap Inc. and Yurman Designs, among others. Herbert Mines competes against rivals such as Spencer Stuart and Korn/Ferry International by offering a high level of service along with deep, industry-related knowledge. The firm also leverages its relationships with key industry executives.

"I think as far as HMA is concerned, it is perceived as the number-one executive placement company in the industry because of its history and its breadth and depth of knowledge," said Howard Socol, whom Reiter placed for the ceo spot at Barneys New York. "With [Reiter], he has the right-brain/left-brain qualities that companies seek in their own searches. He also has charisma. And he is not a lightweight for himself, and he is not a lightweight for his clients. He delivers."

Reiter, 57, a native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis & Clark Law School, worked as a corporate attorney at Arcata Corp., which was a major printer of books, magazines and catalogues, and cut his teeth in the executive search business at Korn/Ferry in 1986. Reiter later joined private equity firm Butler Capital Corp. as recruiting managing director before arriving at Herbert Mines Associates.

A glimpse into his high-powered world suggests the intensity, sharp focus and depth required for the company to succeed.

Reiter's day begins with a read-through of the news in his office on Park Avenue here. After digesting The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and industry trade newspapers such as WWD, Reiter dives into his agenda, which means working the phones, tapping sources, pitching services and presenting clients with top candidates.

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