By  on August 24, 2005

NEW YORK — George Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Saks Department Store Group, will resign on Sept. 30, suggesting that parent Saks Inc. may be close to selling what remains of the unit.

Saks Inc. sold the southern portion of the group — Proffitt's and McRae's — for about $620 million to Belk Inc. in July, leaving the 180-unit northern portion. The northern group, consisting of Carson Pirie Scott, Younkers, Herberger's, Bergner's and The Boston Store, is up for sale. Saks Inc. also intends to sell its Club Libby Lu girls' specialty division.

The Saks Fifth Avenue and Parisian divisions of Saks Inc. are not for sale officially, but people familiar with the situation have indicated that the parent company is considering exiting those, as well.

The company received bids for the northern group this week, said a person who asked not to be identified. The offer has been extended because bidders are said to be interested in the Saks Fifth Avenue division of Saks Inc., complicating the situation. Saks Inc. declined to comment.

Jones' departure is the second of a high-level Saks executive in a week. James Scully, former executive vice president of strategic planning and human resources, joined J. Crew last week as executive vice president and chief financial officer, succeeding Amanda Bokman, who resigned in June.

Jones joined Birmingham, Ala.-based Saks Inc. in March 2001 after a seven-year stint at Warner Bros., where he served as president of worldwide licensing and Studio Stores. Before that he worked for Target, Rose's and Dillard's. At Saks Inc., Jones had the Proffitt's, McRae's, Parisian, Carson's, Club Libby Lu and private brand organization reporting to him.

"For the middle market, he made some good choices," said one former colleague, who asked not to be identified. "But there was never enough money to advertise and market the products."

Saks Inc. spokeswoman Julia Bentley said Jones was exploring new job opportunities and that his decision to leave was appropriate for both him and the corporation in light of the decision to explore strategic alternatives for the northern group.

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