By and  on January 7, 2002

NEW YORK -- Eddie Bauer, which has been battling declining sales and grappling with new design directions and merchandise changes for several seasons, said Friday that its president and chief executive officer, Richard T. Fersch, retired from the company.

While Eddie Bauer's business has been difficult recently, Fersch was credited by the parent company, The Spiegel Group, with growing the brand during his 14 years there. Martin Zaepfel, Spiegel's vice chairman, president and ceo, said in a statement: "Under Rick's leadership, Eddie Bauer has evolved from a regional U.S. retailer into an international, tri-channel retailer, with sales growing from $900 million to more than $1.6 billion."

However, recent attempts to better connect with consumers have fallen short, as the company shifted from having primarily a casual outdoors appeal to developing a broader, wardrobing image, while maintaining classic styling.

Aside from looking for a new ceo, Eddie Bauer realigned some top management.

Steve Newman, president of Eddie Bauer apparel, assumed additional responsibility for all creative services and sourcing. He joined Eddie Bauer in September 2000 and has played a critical role in revamping the merchandise and brand positioning.

Mark Staudinger was named vice president of marketing. He joined Eddie Bauer in 1992 as manager of information services application and most recently served as vice president of direct media.

The company also hired Paul Keur as vice president of sourcing and production. He was managing director of sourcing for Eddie Bauer International Inc. in Miami.

Fersch, who is 52, said in a statement that he plans to pursue a range of opportunities, including serving as an adviser, consultant and community activist. He joined Eddie Bauer in 1988 as vice president of retail stores, rose to senior vice president of stores, executive vice president of merchandising, marketing and advertising, and chief operating officer. He was named president in 1993 and added the ceo title in 1997.

During the transition, Fersch will work with the company to run the day-to-day operations. Zaepfel will oversee planning and strategic initiatives. The Korn Ferry search firm has been hired to find a successor.

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