By  on October 14, 2010

James Fogarty, who brought a career of turnaround experience with him when he joined Charming Shoppes Inc. as president and chief executive officer 18 months ago, has stepped down from the post and from the firm’s board.

Anthony Romano, currently executive vice president of global sourcing and business transformation, has been promoted to chief operating officer. The company’s brand presidents and top department heads will report to Romano while Spencer Stuart works with the board on the search for a new ceo.

Additionally, Michael Blitzer, a principal of corporate advisory firm Portsmouth Partners LLC, will take Fogarty’s seat on the board and serve as a consultant to the Bensalem, Pa.-based operator of Lane Bryant and other large-size retail nameplates. Blitzer, a Macy’s veteran who was previously vice chairman of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., will report to Michael Goldstein, chairman.

Fogarty joined Charming Shoppes in April 2009 following 15 years at turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal, where he served as managing director, and a more recent stint as president and chief operating officer of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. His time with A&M included a tenure as chief financial officer of Levi Strauss & Co.

Fogarty’s departure is a reminder of how complex the search for retail ceo’s can be.

Executive search firm Herbert Mines Associates released a study Wednesday which said that, during the last five years, just 7 percent of ceo’s at publicly held retail companies came to their jobs with prior ceo experience at public firms. The report covered management changes at the 104 largest public retailers, all with revenues above $500 million.

Of 58 ceo changes, the majority — 57 percent — were internal promotions, with the remaining 43 percent ascending to the top spot from the outside.

“Ceo candidates need to havestrong financial acumen and, more importantly, should know how to manage all functions that report to them,” said Hal Reiter, chairman and ceo of Herbert Mines. “But the new ceo’s learning curve of dealing with the public markets, shareholders and investor relations mostly occurs on the job.”

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