By  on October 30, 2007

The Neiman Marcus Group Inc. has formed an office of the chairman, throwing the spotlight on two veteran officials, Karen Katz and James Skinner, as leading contenders to one day succeed Burt Tansky, chairman, chief executive officer and president of the corporation.

Katz continues as president and ceo of Neiman Marcus Stores, but as part of the just-formed chairman's office she has the additional role of executive vice president of the group, entailing new responsibilities for strategy, business development and marketing.

Skinner, senior vice president and chief financial officer, who is also included in the office of the chairman, has been promoted to executive vice president and chief financial officer of the group, with additional responsibility for information services.

Both executives continue to report to Tansky, the third member of the office.

"We're creating a brain trust," said Tansky in an exclusive interview with WWD on Monday.

Asked if creating the chairman's office was part of a succession strategy, Tansky replied: "I don't know that. We are creating a different kind of structure at the top and that's it. Karen and Jim are continuing to do what they are doing and they take on some additional responsibility. They join me in setting corporate policy and strategic direction. That's it. There's nothing more to it. We are not changing our strategy. This is merely a way of recognizing two people's performance, which has been outstanding, and giving them more responsibility."

Ironically, Tansky added the title of executive vice president of NMG in 2000 when he was already president and ceo of Neiman Marcus Stores. A year later, he rose to chairman, ceo and president of the group.

There has been widespread speculation that NMG, which Texas Pacific and Warburg Pincus bought in 2005 for $5.1 billion, could go public early next year via an initial public offering. The $4.4 billion company has been on a roll for years, and the luxury sector is generally holding up despite the nation's economic uncertainties stemming from the housing slump, credit crunch and rising fuel costs. The stock market and Wall Street bonuses have also abetted luxury sales, but both are less certain this year. Still, Neiman's has been able to weather both good and bad times in the economy.

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