NEW YORK — Paul Charron will be a tough act to follow and his successor needs to have the industry acumen to continue to steer Liz Claiborne Inc. on an aggressive expansion path.
A day after Charron said he would retire as chairman and chief executive officer of the $4.6 billion apparel conglomerate at the end of the year, analysts and industry executives on Wednesday praised his vision and leadership skills, and said his departure leaves Claiborne somewhat vulnerable.
Some said that with the promotion of Trudy Sullivan to president of the company, Claiborne could be preparing her to take the helm. Charron said that while the company will not rule anyone out, there will be various people considered for the job.
"Trudy is an extremely talented executive and we look forward to an even greater contribution from her as president," Charron said in an interview Wednesday.
"With respect to the ceo position and consistent with good corporate governance practices, the board will be looking at qualified internal and external candidates with proven leadership skills from both inside and outside the company. Beyond that, we're not going to speculate," Charron said.
Analysts wondered if Charron's departure would make a merger or takeover of Claiborne more attractive.
However, there should be few short-term effects on the company, given that Charron plans to stay on board for the rest of the year, said J.P. Morgan Chase analyst Robert Samuels.
"I expect them to continue with their diversification strategy and to continue with this push into specialty retail that they've been really doing a good job with over the past few years," Samuels said.
Claiborne has expanded its specialty retail footprint in recent years, with new stores under several brands, including Sigrid Olsen and Mexx. It also continues its talks with J. Jill about a possible acquisition of that retailer. Charron's departure will be eased by what Samuels described as a "pretty talented bench" of executives.
"The promotion of Trudy Sullivan to president obviously puts her in position to be one who will be seriously considered for the top spot," he said. "I do think that they'll first look internally."A replacement from the consumer products sector is also a possibility, given Charron's background as a Procter & Gamble executive. But Charron gained apparel industry experience at VF Corp. before joining Claiborne.
Whoever ultimately steps up to take Charron's place will have "gargantuan shoes" to fill, said analyst Jennifer Black, president of Jennifer Black & Associates.
"They need somebody who knows all aspects of the business, and I guess I would find it unlikely that they would pick another person, for example, from the packaged-goods industry," said Black. "Liz is a different company today than it was when Paul joined."
Charron has empowered his executives to make their own decisions, said Black, noting his successor will have to continue that management model. Often a change in leadership at a company piques the interest of suitors, but Black said she was unsure if anyone would make such a move.
"I think it's possible and I think it's an interesting thought from the perspective of what the department store industry has done and it would give them a taste of their own medicine," she added.
Vendors have been challenged lately by ever-growing department store chains rising out of a series of mergers, such as Federated Department Stores' buyout of longtime rival May Department Stores.
Consultant Emanuel Weintraub said he believes that when Claiborne looks for a successor to Charron, it needs to find someone with clear knowledge of the apparel industry, as well as talents beyond.
"Paul will be a very hard act to follow," Weintraub said. "He is very focused and has a clear vision on multiple levels. I think that the successor will have to have a vision of Liz in the global consumer marketplace, since that is where the growth in apparel is."
Weintraub said Claiborne has major growth opportunity overseas and Charron's replacement should be capable of taking them there.
As far as a recommendation for a replacement, Weintraub said he sees Roger Farah, chief operating officer at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., as a good possibility.
"With his experience, Roger would be a very good pick," he said. "I think he can understand that the mother lode is in the U.S., but the growth area is there internationally."Catherine Sadler, president of the Catherine Sadler Group of brand consultants, said she agrees that Farah would be an "exciting candidate" to take the reins at Claiborne, but also believes Charron will be hard to replace.
"The thing about Paul Charron is that he is an extraordinary individual," Sadler said. "He has that perfect mix of being a great business manager with a true understanding of the need for marketing and the essence of branding. Those are going to be hard skills to replace."
Denise Seegal, president and ceo at VF Sportswear, had the opportunity to work with Charron at Claiborne for four years when she joined as president in 1996.
"Paul Charron is a dynamic leader who had the vision to transform Liz Claiborne Inc. into a diversified portfolio of brands that addressed consumer needs across many channels of distribution," she said.
"He developed the strategy, surrounded himself with very talented executives and then through consistent, strong execution, delivered value to his shareholders year after year."
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)