By  on January 11, 2011

LONDON — In a bid to put more muscle behind its growing leather goods business, Asprey has named Paddy Byng managing director of parent company Asprey Holdings Ltd.

Byng stepped down as chief executive officer of the Bond Street stationers and leather goods brand Smythson last spring. Prior to joining Smythson, he held senior marketing positions at Dunhill and Polo Ralph Lauren.

He will report to John Rigas, the chairman of Asprey’s board and its main shareholder.

“Paddy showed very strong leadership at Smythson, and he has a background in marketing as well as supply chain, especially in the leather industry. He will be instrumental in the evolution of this company, and in developing the leather goods element of the brand,” Rigas told WWD on Tuesday.

Rigas said sales of leather goods are up 60 percent year-on-year, and that the company is planning to build its accessories division to include small leather goods. “The business is not all about super-high-end day bags for ladies,” Rigas said, “And we want to expand the category.”

In June, Asprey named the American accessories designer Bruce Hoeksema creative director, overseeing the company’s core categories of leather, silver, jewelry and watches.

Byng succeeds Robert Procop, who stepped down last year. However, his role will be broader, said Rigas. Procop was head of Asprey London, and did not oversee the international business. As managing director of Asprey Holdings, Byng will oversee the brand’s local and foreign markets, including the U.S.

Procop’s specialty is high-end jewelry, and during his tenure at Asprey he cultivated a narrow segment of deep-pocketed clients, and brought Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on board to create a capsule collection of gold jewelry and silver accessories.

Byng said he was eager to “build on the good work that John has already done. We’re on a journey to restore Asprey to its former greatness,” he said. He begins work officially on Feb. 1, although Rigas said Byng is already in discussions about future strategy.

Rigas said the overall company strategies had not changed, and that he had spent much of the past year culling stores that had been opened during Asprey’s previous ownership, some of them in Japan. He said revenues will be down about 5 percent in the fiscal year ending March 31, including the latest store closures.

The Asprey chairman, whose Sciens Capital Management purchased the ailing brand with Plainfield Asset Management in 2006, has been quietly working to downsize and upgrade the business, which under former owners Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou had expanded rapidly into new markets and noncore categories.

“Our aim has been to narrow and refocus the brand, which had gone down market in terms of quality. We want to improve it, and give it back to its [traditional] clientele,” Rigas has said. In 2006, Sciens and Plainfield committed to pumping $80 million to $100 million to fund Asprey’s future growth.

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