By  on June 15, 2007

NEW YORK — Jones Apparel Group held its annual meeting Thursday — and there wasn't even a whisper from executives about a possible sale of Barneys New York.

Peter Boneparth, the $4.74 billion manufacturer's president and chief executive officer, divulged nothing about what sources say is an impending sell-off of the specialty retailer to the Dubai-based investment fund Istithmar, as reported in WWD June 4. Nor did the ceo comment on the possible divestiture of the group's moderate brands during the customarily concise meeting to approximately a dozen shareholders.

"Given the size of the crowd, I'll keep this relatively brief," Boneparth said.

He would say that Jones was "now a bit ahead of schedule" with the restructuring efforts that began in 2005. After extensive layoffs and cost-cutting in the last two years, the ceo said he was "seeing very nice signs of life" in the company's portfolio.

He borrowed a term from competitor Liz Claiborne Inc.'s ceo, William L. McComb, saying he wants to grow Jones' "power brands" — including Anne Klein, Jones New York and Nine West — by investing capital in the group's higher-margin businesses.

After the meeting, Boneparth told WWD that in the company's second-quarter earnings call he will discuss possibly selling or licensing out some of the company's moderate brands.

On the sale of Barneys, Boneparth was more tight-lipped. "It's been a very, very good investment," he said.

A representative from Blackrock petitioned Boneparth to take action on Barneys, arguing the approximately $29 current stock price did not reflect the worth of the high-end retailer. "We encourage you to consider monetizing Barneys and returning the asset to shareholders," she said.

Another shareholder proposed implementing an advisory vote to allow shareholders to weigh in on executive compensation. The proposal was not ratified, "but I understand it was a close vote," said Boneparth.

Later Thursday, Jones appointed Joseph Donnalley as treasurer, in addition to his current role as senior vice president of corporate taxation and risk management. The 12-year Jones veteran succeeds Thimio Sotos, the prior chief financial officer and treasurer who left in March.

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