By  on September 15, 2008

Roberta S. Karp will step down from her role as senior vice president of corporate affairs, business development and legal at Liz Claiborne Inc., after more than 20 years with the vendor.

Karp is leaving to pursue other interests, but will stay involved on the board of the Liz Claiborne Foundation and as a consultant on issues including human rights, labor relations, business development and corporate strategy, according to the company.

“You can’t hold back a force of nature from doing what it’s meant to do,” Claiborne chief executive officer William L. McComb said in an e-mail to Claiborne employees Friday. “While Robbie has become an inseparable part of our leadership team — and a very close personal ally that will be impossible to replace — I embrace her decision and will keep her close as a consultant and outside adviser.”

The company will not fill Karp’s position after she leaves in October. Her direct reports will be divided so that legal and corporate affairs report directly to McComb, and business development reports to chief financial officer Andrew Warren.

“I have to go back to things that have been lingering in me,” Karp told WWD. “I have two loves: One of them is food, and I want to spend more time cooking and see if I could figure out something professionally with that; and the other is public service. I was very fortunate to be able to do something to help the public through Liz, and maybe I’ll do something for the city.”

In her more than two decades at Liz Claiborne, Karp helped create the company’s general counsel role, acted as a senior adviser during the last two years as its leadership transitioned, led the firm’s recent portfolio review and business development, and directed the company on human rights issues.

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