By  on April 23, 2008

Calypso founder and chief executive officer Christiane Celle has left the 33-unit multibrand retail chain less than seven months after Solera Capital LLC purchased a majority stake.

Celle resigned earlier this month from Calypso Christiane Celle "after being unable to resolve unforeseen material differences relating to Calypso's management, operations and long-term business strategy between her, Solera Partners LP and SCI Partners LP," according to a statement she released Tuesday. She has commenced taking legal action, according to her attorney, Jeffrey Pagano.

Celle "reluctantly reached her decision after determining that she could not remain ceo and maintain the exacting standards of the Calypso brand she created under the constraints imposed on her by Calypso's new owners," the statement read. She declined to comment Tuesday.

Solera is a private equity investment firm that typically invests between $10 million and $40 million in its target companies. Its portfolio includes natural and organic food company Annie's, consumer health care provider The Little Clinic, and publisher Latina Media Ventures. Solera Capital was founded in 1999 with an all-female staff led by ceo Molly Ashby.

Ashby said in a statement released Tuesday, "We have great respect for Christiane and the brand she built. The company's prospects have never been brighter and the business is operating seamlessly under the interim leadership of Bob Grayson and Kevin Mullaney, who have been involved since December. A search for permanent senior management has been under way for some time."

A former stylist, Celle opened the first Calypso boutique in 1992 in St. Barth's and somewhat on a whim, after realizing that the chic island only had high-end boutiques and tacky tourist shops. Over the next 15 years, she opened additional stores, including a few earmarked for home products, children's wear, jewelry and outlet merchandise. In the fall, Calypso teamed with Solera Capital LLC to develop the infrastructure, systems and management team needed to support the company's growth.

At that time, Solero's Ashby said the plan was to double the chain's size in the next five years domestically and overseas "with room to grow beyond that." Atlanta and Las Vegas were suggested as potential sites for new stores and there was also talk of opening concept shops or corners in established department stores in Asia. Developing the Internet business, debuting product extensions and possibly creating partnerships with other retailers were other initiatives discussed in the fall.With last year's sales pegged to be $60 million, Ashby said, "We certainly expect to double that volume in five years and then some."

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