NEW YORK — Kellwood Co., already a major Seventh Avenue deal maker, has beefed up its ability to assess acquisition targets and new business opportunities.

Sarah A. Wallace has been brought on board as vice president of strategic planning and new business development. In the newly created position, Wallace will analyze business opportunities and lead strategic planning initiatives for the $2.4 billion company and its various divisions. She reports to Robert C. Skinner Jr., president and chief operating officer, and Stephen Ruzow, president of the Kellwood women’s wear.

“Between the new initiatives, which we have going on, and the acquisitions that we’re looking at, we really needed somebody who could devote their full time to business planning,” Ruzow said in a phone interview.

Among Kellwood’s recent licensing agreements are Liz Claiborne dresses and suits, a Calvin Klein better women’s line and an Izod moderate women’s line from Phillips-Van Heusen, XOXO junior apparel from Global Brand Holdings, Run Athletics and Def Jam University sportswear from Russell Simmons and Dockers’ tops with Levi Strauss & Co.

While the number of licensing deals that Kellwood has engaged in has increased lately, Ruzow said the firm generally completes one to two acquisitions a year, a pace it intends to keep up.

In February 2003, the firm acquired pants and skirts maker Briggs New York Corp., a $200 million business. The firm is also said to be considering an acquisition of Phat Fashions Inc.

“While Kellwood has always been excellent at doing due diligence, due diligence is all history,” Ruzow added. “We want to put a heavy emphasis on forward planning and looking at where the companies we’re acquiring have been, where they are today and, looking at the door level, at where they’re going.”

In the mid-Nineties, Wallace worked at Donna Karan, rising to the position of vice president of worldwide licensing. This led to a tour at Salomon Smith Barney as an equity research associate. Most recently, she was a consultant, aiding apparel companies with due diligence and business planning.

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