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Talbots Taps Chief Operating Officer

Former Claiborne exec Michael Scarpa to join firm.

The Talbots Inc. named former Liz Claiborne Inc. executive Michael Scarpa as chief operating officer on Monday and said he will add chief financial officer duties when cfo Ed Larsen retires Jan. 5.

The move reunites Scarpa with another former Claiborne executive, Talbots president and chief executive officer Trudy Sullivan, to whom Scarpa will report.

A 25-year veteran of Claiborne, Scarpa most recently served as the firm’s chief operating officer after a seven-year stretch as cfo. Liz Claiborne elected not to replace him as chief operating officer when he departed last month and divided his duties among members of the firm’s senior management team, most notably cfo Andy Warren.

At Talbots, his duties will include finance, supply chain, information technology, inventory management and strategic planning.

Talbots has been without a chief operating officer since Philip Kowalczyk left the firm in July. His duties had been assumed by other company executives.

“Mike is ideally suited to succeed in his dual role as chief operating officer and cfo,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan was president of Liz Claiborne when she resigned in July 2007 to take the top job at Talbots, joining a small group of women at the helm of major fashion retailers and brands.

Sullivan’s tenure at Talbots, based in Hingham, Mass., has been anything but tranquil. A month ago, the firm put its 282-unit J. Jill brand on the selling block, and last January opted to shut its kids’, men’s and U.K. businesses, closing 78 stores in the process.

To cut costs, in June Talbots instituted a 9 percent reduction in its corporate workforce, eliminating the chief operating officer position at that time. A month later, amid growing speculation about its finances, Talbots completed a $50 million credit facility with a subsidiary of its majority shareholder, Aeon Co. Ltd.