Limited Brands Inc.'s second-in-command Leonard Schlesinger, vice chairman and chief operating officer, has resigned from the company.
Limited declined to discuss the reasons for Schlesinger's departure. However, Wall Street sources believe it was part of the retailer's recently announced streamlining efforts to cut costs, and that Schlesinger's strategic role was diminished in the aftermath of sell-offs of Limited's Express and Limited Stores apparel chains.
The company has been downsizing to focus on the more successful Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works brands and international growth. In June, Limited disclosed it was cutting 10 percent of the workforce within its corporate offices and headquarters for its brands.
"With a scaled-back company, what do they really need him [Schlesinger] for?" asked one analyst rhetorically. "A big part of his job is gone."
Schlesinger was responsible for operational and financial leadership, was a member of the board and was considered an idea man in initiating projects, including those on the systems side of the business. He was also responsible for the functions that support operations of all divisions, and managed the company's international investment in Canadian innerwear retailer La Senza and its venture activities.
"We thank Len for the countless ways he has made a difference at Limited Brands," Leslie H. Wexner, Limited Brands' chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement Monday. "His contributions to our business reach far beyond his vision and business results. Whatever he does next, he will break new ground and elevate those around him."
Said Schlesinger in a statement: "We did terrific work, and I have the utmost confidence that the strategy we've put into place will continue to be successful and will drive growth for the enterprise. I look forward to working with the Limited Brands team on a smooth transition."
His responsibilities will be assumed by Wexner and Martyn Redgrave, executive vice president and chief administrative officer.
Schlesinger joined Limited Brands in 1999 as executive vice president of organization, leadership and human resources. Before joining Limited, he served as senior vice president, counselor to the president and professor of sociology and public policy at Brown University. Earlier, he was the George F. Baker Jr. professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.At one time, Schlesinger was executive vice president and chief operating officer of Au Bon Pain Co. Inc. He has also been on several boards, including those of Borders Group Inc., General Cinema Cos. Inc. and Pegasystems Inc. as well as a number of privately held companies.
Earlier this year, Limited sold a 75 percent stake in Limited Stores in a noncash deal to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners Inc., which contributed $50 million in equity capital to the business and arranged for a $75 million credit facility. Limited also sold a 75 percent interest in the Express nameplate to Golden Gate Capital for $602 million.
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