With new chiefs picked out for the Mexx and Lucky Brand Jeans businesses, William L. McComb, chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne Inc., declared the company’s corporate restructuring completed after nearly two years of often-painful transition.
Claiborne on Tuesday tapped Thomas Johannes Grote as ceo of Mexx Worldwide and Tom Fitzgerald as ceo of Lucky Brand Jeans. Grote, most recently president of the Esprit brand, will join the firm on Oct. 1, and Fitzgerald, currently interim ceo at Mexx and senior vice president of direct brand services, will take the helm at Lucky on July 1.
Mexx will be run by the current management team, with the help of McComb, who took over Claiborne in late 2006, and, in July of the following year, laid out his controversial plan to refocus the firm and sell off a host of brands.
“That’s it — done,” said McComb in an interview Tuesday. “I’m so happy I can honestly say that. The corporation has, by and large, been reengineered and the action is in the brands.”
That’s not to say all the pain has passed for Claiborne, which reports first-quarter results next Wednesday. The company has said it expects a meaningful loss in the quarter and another loss in the second quarter before breaking even in the third quarter and returning to profitability in the fourth.
McComb said the firm’s brands need a “stronger merchandising backbone” that can drive more dollars per square foot. For instance, he said Lucky sells as many tops as it does bottoms, a ratio he’d like to shift to three or four tops for every pair of bottoms.
And Mexx continues to be a part of the mix, despite some sense among U.S. observers that it has become a secondary concern.
“Some of that is ugly Americanism,” McComb said. “There’s a little bit of a geographical bias or blind spot.”
McComb described Grote’s hiring as “a big statement,” given his 15-year stint at Esprit.
Previously, Lucky co-founders Gene Montesano and Barry Perlman shared the title of ceo of that brand. They remain with the company and will work closely with Fitzgerald.
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