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Bruno Bich Takes Over As Guy Laroche President

PARIS -- Bruno Bich has been named president of Groupe Guy Laroche, succeeding Richard Hanckowiak, who has left the company. Bich continues as chairman of Group Bic, which owns the majority interest in Laroche.<BR><BR>Bich will be assisted in running...

PARIS — Bruno Bich has been named president of Groupe Guy Laroche, succeeding Richard Hanckowiak, who has left the company. Bich continues as chairman of Group Bic, which owns the majority interest in Laroche.

Bich will be assisted in running the day-to-day operations of money-losing Laroche by Jean-Jacques Schmoll, 65, a former partner and managing director of Georges Rech here. Most recently Schmoll had his own consulting firm here. A title for Schmoll has not yet been determined.

This news comes just a month after Michel Klein, Laroche’s newly appointed couturier, presented his first couture show to mixed reviews. It also follows by several weeks the house’s unveiling of its new store concept at its renovated and expanded flagship store on Rue du Faubourg St. Honore. Hanckowiak could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Groupe Bic declined comment on the change.

Schmoll also declined comment except to say that Hanckowiak’s restructuring steps were “working well.” He add, “There is nothing negative to say.”

Other measures spearheaded by Hanckowiak include reorganizing Laroche’s rtw into three distinct lines. Two of the company’s five factories in Cholet-sur-Sevres, France, were closed, which led to layoffs of about 100 workers. Production was reorganized to just-in-time manufacturing.

Hanckowiak, 49, spent 20 years as an executive of Laroche. He joined the fashion house in 1977 as financial director, was later named vice president under president Pierre Lafont and ultimately succeeded Lafont as president in 1992.

Schmoll has spent his entire career in the textile industry, in fabrics and lapparel. From 1969 to 1989, he was managing director at Rech, eventually holding 50 percent of the firm in partnership with Georges Rech, designer and founder of the company. In 1989, he and Rech sold the firm to Courtaulds Textiles. Schmoll stayed on for two years at Rech as part of the transition team.

He then founded a consulting firm, BCM et Partenaires, which was hired by Bruno Bich in 1993 to do an overall study of Groupe Bic. Schmoll said it was that contact that led to his new responsibilities at Laroche.

Laroche has seen several years of losses and declining sales. Last year, sales fell 29 percent to $60.7 million. Net profit figures are not yet available, but Hanckowiak said recently the house would not be profitable. In 1992, Laroche lost $20 million.

At Bic’s annual meeting last year, Bich said selling Laroche was not out of the question.