It was a great year to be an executive recruiter. High-level changes in the design and executive suites were rampant in 2006, a year that marked the changing of the guard at such giants as Nike, Liz Claiborne, Levi, Strauss, Burberry, Chloé, Gucci and Nina Ricci.

Here’s a look at some of the year’s biggest moves.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

• At Nike, chief executive William D. Perez stepped down in January after 13 months on the job. Perez, previously ceo of S.C. Johnson, was replaced by 27-year Nike veteran Mark Parker. At the time of the announcement, Philip Knight, Nike chairman, said, “It was very difficult for Bill to come in here after 34 years at a packaged-goods company and get his arms around this place. There was too much of a difference in industries, companies and brands at the end of the day.”

Three months later, Mindy Grossman also stepped down as Nike’s global vice president of apparel to become ceo of retailing at Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp.

• In April, St. John ceo Richard Cohen abruptly left the Irvine, Calif.-based maker after a troubled 18-month tenure marked by sliding sales, a radical and ill-received change in the product and the departure of many employees. St. John board member Philip B. Miller, former chairman and ceo of Saks Fifth Avenue, was named interim ceo. Soon after Cohen’s departure, creative director Tim Gardner left the company, and Marie Gray returned in a design consultant role, as did designer Maria D. Lopez.

• Fred Gehring, former ceo of Tommy Hilfiger Europe, took over the helm of Tommy Hilfiger Corp. following Apax Partners’ $1.6 billion acquisition of the $1.7 billion apparel firm. His goal is to rebuild the company’s struggling U.S. wholesale business, while continuing its fast-track growth overseas. David Dyer, president and ceo of Hilfiger, left the firm after the acquisition was completed.

• Angela Ahrendts took over as Burberry ceo in July, succeeding Rose Marie Bravo. Ahrendts actually joined Burberry at the start of the year and shadowed Bravo in her role before assuming the position. The new chief then laid out a roadmap for Burberry’s future: ramping up retail presence in the U.S., boosting the accessories business and leveraging the brand name worldwide.

• Levi’s announced in July that Phil Marineau would complete his seven-year tenure as president and ceo at the end of the year. Marineau, a former president and ceo of Pepsico North America, was anything but an obvious choice for the job when he joined the jeans giant in 1999. Marineau’s mission was to turn Levi’s around, including improving operational efficiencies and shedding all manufacturing operations in favor of focusing on product development. Marineau’s track record at the company was mixed. But Levi’s did mark a milestone, breaking eight years of declining sales results. John Anderson, former head of the company’s Asia-Pacific division, succeeded Marineau on Nov. 26.

• Michele Norsa, the well-respected ceo of Valentino SpA, stunned the industry in July by resigning and heading to Salvatore Ferragamo Italia SpA. Reportedly, tensions were growing between Norsa and Valentino Fashion Group chairman Antonio Favrin, and speculation has persisted that Valentino is for sale, despite denials from the company. Norsa is now the first non-family member to fill the ceo position at Ferragamo. With a mandate to prepare the company for a stock market listing, Norsa’s plan is to expand the brand’s presence into new markets, develop catchy ad campaigns and introduce more accountability into the corporate culture.

• The year also saw a wave of designers bringing in a president for the first time. In April, Narciso Rodriguez tapped Roberto Pesaro as president and ceo; Zac Posen hired Barry Miguel as president in October, and in November, Cynthia Rowley created the role of president for Peter Arnold.

• After being shown the door by the Phillips-Van Heusen board in February, Mark Weber landed on his feet at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in October, when he was named chief executive of LVMH (U.S.) Inc. and chairman and ceo of Donna Karan International. At DKI, he replaced Jeffry Aronsson. At PVH, Weber was replaced by PVH’s president and chief operating officer, Emanuel Chirico.

• After more than a 16-month search, Liz Claiborne Inc. finally appointed a new ceo, William McComb, 43, an industry outsider with a 14-year tenure at Johnson & Johnson, most recently as group chairman. McComb took over as ceo and a member — not chairman — of Claiborne’s board on Nov. 6. The board appointed its own longtime member Kay Koplovitz, 61, as nonexecutive chair, starting Jan. 1. Paul Charron will stay on as a consultant for another full year and become chairman emeritus.

• In early October, Jane Shepherdson, the brand director of Topshop who helped transform the brand into a fashion and retail icon, resigned. Succeeding her was Kayrn Fenn, the store’s buying director, and Mary Homer, commercial and merchandising director.

• In October, Maureen Chiquet was named global ceo of Chanel, (effective Jan. 1, 2007) a new post in which she oversees and coordinates all the company’s activities internationally. She had been president and chief operating officer of Chanel Inc. USA for the past three years, after holding several executive positions at Gap Inc.

• Among key design moves, in January, Frida Giannini was appointed Gucci’s sole creative director after John Ray quit as men’s wear creative director. Giannini’s appointment brought to an end the design trio named to the brand in March 2004 after Gucci’s previous creative director, Tom Ford, left.

Though Raf Simons was named Jil Sander’s creative director in May 2005, it wasn’t until last January with his first men’s wear show that he unveiled his design vision to the world. Simon’s first effort for women’s was the current fall collection.

Paulo Melim Andersson was appointed chief designer at Chloé in October. A former design director at Marni, he replaced Phoebe Philo, who left the Richemont-owned label to spend more time with her family.

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