By  on April 8, 2005

NEW  YORK — Joel Horowitz, who guided Tommy Hilfiger Corp. through major growth in the Nineties, will retire as executive chairman after the annual shareholder’s meeting in the fall.

Horowitz, 55, a founder of the company, will take the role of nonexecutive chairman of the board until the meeting, tentatively set for Oct. 31.

Asked why Horowitz chose to retire, Hilfiger said, “It has always been Joel’s plan to play golf, take it easy and enjoy life....He’s a big picture person, but at the same time never was afraid to get into the details. He guided us through the IPOs and the tremendous growth of the business over the last 20 years.”

Horowitz was unavailable for comment.

Tommy Hilfiger Corp. has been going through trying times in recent years as it looks to  reinvigorate the brand. Hilfiger’s wholesale business last year accounted for about $700 million in revenues out of the company’s total $1.88 billion. Wholesale sales are half of what they were in 1999. Still, Hilfiger had double-digit increases in its European business, as well as increases in its Canadian, licensing and outlet divisions last year. This year, Hilfiger bought the Karl Lagerfeld business and continues to search for acquisitions. It also decided to stop manufacturing its H line for department stores.

In its third quarter ended Dec. 31, Hilfiger reported a 58.6 percent drop in pretax earnings to $12.6 million from $30.4 million a year ago because of higher-than-anticipated promotional sales, legal fees related to a government investigation into the firm’s commission policies and the closing of a Secaucus, N.J., facility. Revenues for the three months declined 5 percent to $427.9 million from $450.6 million. As with the second quarter, Hilfiger did not report net income pending an investigation by the firm’s board into its commission policies and related tax matters.

Horowitz served as the company’s president and chief executive officer from 1994 to 2003 and continued as executive chairman. Hilfiger spent 10 months searching for his successor and named David Dyer as president and ceo in August 2003.

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