NEW YORK — Gordon Brothers Group named Mark J. Schwartz chief executive officer, as the company evolves from a liquidator to more of a merchant bank.
Schwartz succeeds Michael G. Frieze, who will continue as chairman.
Schwartz, 47, who joined the 101-year-old firm two years ago, will retain the title of president. Since joining GB, Schwartz has worked on expanding the company’s equity and lending operations. Under Schwartz, the firm, better known for liquidating assets and excess inventory, has evolved into a company resembling a merchant bank.
“People look at our history as a liquidation expert, but in the last 10 years, we’ve been anything but a liquidator. While we still do store closings, one of the reasons Mark is taking over as ceo is to continue our [focus] in being more of a problem solver in providing investments and loans to firms and in developing stronger relationships with successful retailers,” said Frieze, who has served as ceo since 1984.
For Schwartz, the last two years have been a whirlwind of activity.
“I’ve been extremely busy, traveling from New York to Boston and back. Last week I was in Canada. We’ve made six acquisitions at a pretty aggressive pace since I joined,” Schwartz said.
In addition to the acquisitions through GB Palladin, the firm’s private equity arm, GB has been busy working on loan originations and in taking a more active role in distressed investing. Also playing a bigger role in its operations is the expansion of GB’s advisory services, in which the firm’s experts help companies fine-tune their operations in areas such as improving inventory turns or generating higher margin rates.
“There’s been no time to relax. I need to figure out how to schedule that into my time,” said the married father of two sons.
“The problem is that, as we grow these companies that we’ve invested in, we need to put a group of GB experts in place to monitor the firms, and right now, I seem to be on every team. I’m working on realigning our resources within GB to devote the right time and effort to each project,” Schwartz said.Once that’s done, he expects to spend at least half of his time on strategic issues concerning GB’s expansion. Looking for new investments will be a part of that, but he’ll also be keeping an eye on new opportunities and product areas for GB’s continued growth.
Frieze said he and Schwartz began discussions more than three years ago about the future direction of GB, and agreed that Schwartz would use the first two years to learn all aspects of GB’s business before taking on the full role of ceo.
Schwartz, whose mother was a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, began his retailing career as a sales associate at Saks before moving to the financial side of the business. “For me, retail is always a challenge. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast