Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK--In a string of top-level promotions, May Department Stores Co. named Gene Kahn vice chairman, while Richard Battram has been elevated to executive vice chairman.
Kahn, one of the industry's top merchants, is currently chief executive officer of the 39-unit, $1.3 billion Filene's division, based in Boston.
Battram, 61, is currently a vice chairman of the corporation. When the shifts take effect March 1, Battram will have the Lord & Taylor, Hecht's, Foley's and Robinson's/May divisions reporting to him, while the remaining divisions--Filene's, Kaufmann's, Famous Barr and Meier & Frank--will report to Kahn, who is 45.
Observers said the changes announced Friday were geared to beef up department store management in light of May Co.'s decision to spin off its $2.3 billion Payless Shoe Source chain to shareholders and focus on department stores. That decision in January raised speculation that May Co. would seek to buy additional department stores, including the 13 Strawbridge & Clothier department stores, which are up for sale. S&C's 27-unit Clover division is also up for sale, and Kohl's and Target reportedly are among the interested parties. Boscov's is also said to be interested in some S&C units.
May Co. has been aggressive about acquisition, purchasing Woodward & Lothrop--including its John Wanamaker division--last August. It's also said to have held talks with Mercantile Stores and Dayton Hudson, but those chains say they are not up for sale. Mercantile did say it was in merger talks, but they went nowhere.
In other changes at May Co., Jerome T. Loeb, president, will assume the responsibilities of Thomas A. Hays, deputy chairman, who retires April 30. Loeb, 55, oversees sales support activities and serves as chief financial officer, handling information systems, legal, credit and treasury areas. Hays, 63, handles human resources and real estate activities.
On Friday, a May Co. spokesman would not say whether the promotions also reflected the formation of a succession plan. David Farrell, the 62-year-old chairman and ceo of May Co., has ruled the company with an iron fist and has given no clues about who may be in line to succeed him down the road. While the vice chairmen of the corporation could be considered in the running, May Co. has some divisional heads who could also be considered potential candidates, according to observers. Among them is Marshall Hilsberg, ceo of Lord & Taylor. It's also possible that a non-May executive would be considered.
Succeeding Kahn at Filene's is Judith Hofer, who currently runs the Meier & Frank division in Portland. Hofer, 56, is being succeeded by Richard Maloney, 47, who was senior vice president and general merchandise manager at the Foley's division.
Battram, currently vice chairman, has been with May Co. since 1972. Kahn joined May Co. in 1990 and was with R.H. Macy & Co. for 20 years. "He's an instinctive merchant, with a great feeling for goods and great enthusiasm," said a source. "He's well liked in the market." The Filene's division gained an edge in the Northeast due to the difficulties rival Federated Department Stores experienced when it merged Jordan Marsh and Abraham & Straus into Macy's.
Kahn and Anthony J. Torcasio, 50, president and ceo of May Merchandising, were named to the board.

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