By and  on October 10, 2006

PARIS — Gearing up for a growth phase, Donna Karan International will this week appoint Mark Weber, the former chief executive officer of Phillips-Van Heusen, as its new president and ceo, WWD has learned.

In addition, given his extensive experience in the shirt business, Weber will be given purview in America over Thomas Pink, another brand owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. An announcement is expected shortly.

WWD first reported on July 14 that Weber was in line to succeed Jeffry Aronsson at Donna Karan.

Although Weber was dismissed as ceo by PVH's board after only eight months on the job, the executive has a solid track record and enjoyed a 34-year career at the firm.

He started at PVH as a merchandising assistant fresh out of Brooklyn College and rose through the ranks, becoming vice president and general merchandise manager of the dress shirt company in 1981. As group president of PVH's sportswear operations, he led the acquisition of the Gant and Izod brands and oversaw their brand positioning.

In 1998, he was elevated to president and chief operating officer of PVH and was a key figure in its acquisition of Calvin Klein and its successful integration into the group.

It is understood LVMH was attracted to Weber's ability to run brands profitably. The French group was impressed by his management of Calvin Klein, one of America's best-known designer brands.

Speaking to analysts last month, LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault said, "Donna Karan can become a Ralph Lauren. There are only three star brands in the United States and that is surely one of them."

Brand rejuvenation has been slow under a revolving door of managers at Donna Karan, which LVMH acquired for $643 million in 2001. However, the company is said to be operating profitably, having cleaned up underperforming distribution channels and minimized off-price sales.

Outgoing ceo Aronsson could not be reached for comment. But a source with knowledge of his plans said he has formed an "investment operating group" looking to take stakes in or purchase companies in and outside the fashion industry.

The source said the investment group has "no shortage of capital" and intends to be "global in nature," although speculation Aronsson has hooked up with Saudi industrialists is apparently unfounded, but could relate to a separate endeavor.The source said the group has already targeted five prospects, including Ghurka, which has been put up for sale by Ac­cessories Net­work Group. Ghurka has stores in Chicago and on Madison Avenue in New York, with plans to open another 10 to 12 in the U.S. by 2010. John Bartlett was named creative director in Sept­ember 2005 and the first of the designer's handbags, which are classic and true to Ghurka's roots with a stingray clutch and smooth leather totes, started selling this fall. An ad campaign for the women's line is planned for spring. Bartlett is also exploring footwear, outerwear and ready-to-wear for the brand.

A former corporate attorney, Aronsson joined DKI from LVMH-owned Marc Jacobs International, where he held the ceo post. Before that, he spent nine years as ceo of Oscar de la Renta, where he became known for his disciplined approach to licensing and distribution.

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