By and  on June 14, 2007

NEW YORK — Jones Apparel Group Inc. on Wednesday tapped a senior group retail executive with no mention of Barneys New York, suggesting a change in ownership for the upscale retailer could be imminent.

As WWD reported on June 4, a deal for Barneys was expected within two weeks. It could perhaps be announced today at the company's annual shareholders meeting here.

Jones on Wednesday named Jay Friedman as president, company-owned retail footwear and apparel, effective immediately. Friedman's responsibilities will be focused on leveraging Jones' infrastructure and relationships to enhance those businesses. He will report to Andrew Cohen, chief executive officer, wholesale footwear and accessories.

Friedman joined Jones in April 2006 as president, wholesale footwear. In that post, his responsibilities were for design, sales, inventory and profit and loss responsibility for Easy Spirit, Enzo Angiolini, Circa Joan & David and Jones' children's brands.

"Jay is an industry veteran with a well-rounded background in footwear and apparel, and we believe that he is the right manager to lead our retail businesses as we work to improve results," said Peter Boneparth, ceo of Jones Apparel Group, in a statement. "The performance of our wholesale footwear and accessories business has improved dramatically over the past several quarters, and we are encouraged by the strength of our Anne Klein, Nine West, Bandolino and Enzo Angiolini brands. I am confident that the retail team will benefit from Jay's experience and insight, and that the success being realized in wholesale will extend to the company-owned retail and outlet businesses."

"I have had the pleasure of working with Jay since he joined Jones, and he has consistently demonstrated himself as a talented merchant and effective leader. We have a deep bench of talent across our retail and wholesale businesses, and I believe that by leveraging this and our other strengths, we will continue our progress and achieve long-term growth and increased profitability," said Cohen in a statement.

As for the possible sale of Barneys, Jones has decided on the group that it will seek to complete a deal with, perhaps through a brief exclusivity period to finalize details. As reported, there is a bidding war between two investors, one connected with the royal family of Qatar, and the other an investment fund from Dubai. It is believed Dubai's Istithmar, which owns discounter Loehmann's, still has the inside track.WWD has also learned that two brothers from over the pond have been keen on Barneys. They are Nick and Christian Candy of the luxury property development firm Candy & Candy. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar, is reported to be backing Candy & Candy. In particular, he is said to be investing in their One Hyde Park luxury apartment complex, to be designed by Richard Rogers. Immensely wealthy, and with the backing from a clutch of rich Qatari families, he is gobbling up London property. Earlier this year, a spokesman denied he was pursuing Barneys. On Wednesday, the spokesman did not return calls for comment.

The Candy brothers, through their CPC Group that was founded by Christian Candy, in April purchased the 7.95-acre site at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, the home of the former Robinsons-May department store, for $500 million. The purchase price is reportedly in euros, but is still nevertheless a jump from the $33.5 million paid by the seller, New Pacific Realty, three years ago. The sheikh is reportedly an investor in CPC, a Guernsey-based firm. Candy & Candy also has property developments in Monaco, where the brothers reportedly live; London; Dubai and Qatar.

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