By  on November 22, 2005

LONDON — Kim Winser, the driving force behind the turnaround at Pringle of Scotland, plans to step down as chief executive to pursue a new and unspecified business opportunity.

Winser said in an interview Monday that she did not renew her contract, which expired in March, and would leave in the next few months. The decision of Kenneth Fang, Pringle's owner and chairman, to step down at the end of the year made it an appropriate time for her to move on, Winser said.

"Kenneth gave me the moral and financial support to turn this brand around, and its been a magnificent challenge," Winser said. "We shared a vision and a mission to restore Pringle to its luxury heritage, with knitwear at its heart. Part of my heart will always be here.

"I decided not to renew my contract in March, and have quietly been handing over my responsibilities to two of Kenneth's children, Douglas and Jean Fang," Winser said.

She joined the company in March 2000. An official announcement about the changes might come later this week.

Winser said she would take on "a new venture" but declined further comment. She plans to remain at Pringle until the handover is complete. She also said the Fang siblings' new titles at Pringle had yet to be decided.

In five years, Winser transformed Pringle from a U.K. golf wear company, whose key account was American Golf Discount, into a luxury brand that is sold at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Fred Segal and Harvey Nichols.

During her tenure, the company opened two London flagships and more than 20 units across Asia. Pringle, now known for its colorful, luxury cashmere knits and feminine silhouettes, has gone into Russia and opened warehouses in Europe, the Far East and the U.S.

Since Winser joined Pringle from Marks & Spencer, where she was women's wear director, Pringle's sales grew to $172 million, or 100 million pounds at current exchange, from $17.2 million, or 10 million pounds, industry sources said. The company is privately held and does not release revenue figures.

Next year, Pringle is planning to launch a fragrance, a footwear line and a children's wear line, all under license, Winser said, adding the details of the agreements are being completed.Her departure caps a year of management change at the company, and Winser said she feels she's leaving a "top team" in place. Pringle has reorganized its management team: Karen Schneider was named head of the newly created women's wear division, and Bill Christie became her counterpart at the new men's wear division. Earlier this year, Clare Waight Keller took over as creative director.

Waight Keller showed a one-off silk knit dress at Pringle's 190th anniversary event in Milan in September, and will show her first full women's wear collection during the Milan fall 2006 runway shows.

During the summer, Pringle created a separate accessories division, naming Simona Ciacchi chief designer and Charlotte Thomas took over as director of public relations and marketing.

Founded in 1815 by Robert Pringle, the firm began as a manufacturer of hosiery and underwear, and developed as one of the first luxury knitwear manufacturers. In March 2000, the Hong Kong-based S.C. Fang & Sons purchased Pringle from the cashmere company Dawson International, with an eye to relaunch it.

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