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Jones Promotes Corso, Sees Another Downgrade

Jackie Corso has been named ceo of the handbag and small leather goods division at parent company Jones Apparel Group.

NEW YORK — Victoria & Co. chief executive officer Jackie Corso has been named ceo of the handbag and small leather goods division at parent company Jones Apparel Group.

She takes over the responsibilities of Bruce Makowsky, who had been president of Nine West accessories. Makowsky has left the company, according to a company spokesman.

Separately on Tuesday, Credit Suisse First Boston downgraded Jones’ stock to “neutral” from “outperform” based on questions about whether Jones will be able to retain its various licenses from Polo Ralph Lauren or find suitable vehicles to make up sales and profits.

With this expanded position, Corso, who also remains ceo at Victoria, now will be overseeing all of the handbag and jewelry operations at Jones. She will continue to report to Rhonda Brown, president and chief executive officer of the Jones footwear, accessories and retail group.

Peter Boneparth, president and ceo at Jones Apparel Group, said in a statement: “This is a natural progression for Jackie. By having her focused on both the costume jewelry and small leather goods division, we will be better positioned to leverage our powerful brands and to maximize their respective cross-selling opportunities.”

In the most recent fourth quarter, Jones’ footwear and accessories division reported a 10.8 percent drop in sales at wholesale to $197.8 million, while profits fell 4.7 percent to $24.6 million. Overall company revenues grew 7.8 percent to $964.5 million, while profits surged 64.9 percent to $51.6 million in the quarter.

Corso joined Victoria & Co. in November from Lerner New York, where she was an executive vice president. In her role at Victoria, she oversees all of the company’s jewelry brands, which include Judith Jack, Napier, Nine West, Enzo Angiolini and Bijoux Givenchy, as well as the licensed Tommy Hilfiger line.

The CSFB report lowered the 12-month target price for Jones stock to $30 a share from $36. Shares closed at $27.11, down 32 cents, or 1.2 percent, in New York Stock Exchange trading on Tuesday.

“We believe that Jones’ current stock price is discounting a loss of the Lauren license, but not the possible loss of the Polo Jeans license,” wrote analyst Dennis Rosenberg in a research note.

The dilemma for Jones, the note said, is that attempting to replace Lauren volume with a Calvin Klein women’s wear license, the acquisition of Tommy Hilfiger or both would put it in violation of its Polo Jeans license, which in 2002 generated about $415 million in sales, and operating profits of between $65 million and $70 million.

CSFB estimated that the loss of the Lauren license would deplete Jones’ 2004 earnings by 52 cents a share. By comparison, a doubling of the current royalty rate on Lauren, to 12 percent, would extract 16 cents a share from 2004 EPS.