By  on November 15, 2007

HONG KONG — Joyce Ma, a pillar of the Asian fashion business and one of the industry's most admired merchants, is retiring as chief executive officer from Joyce Boutique Holdings Ltd., effective Monday.

Ma's husband, Walter, who was chairman, and daughter Adrienne, president of Joyce, are also stepping down, marking a changing of the guard at one of the Far East's most iconic and influential fashion retailers.

"There comes a time when one wants to pursue other interests and take life more leisurely," Adrienne Ma said about her mother's decision. She denied speculation here that her mother is in ill health, or that there were any tensions between the Ma family and Peter Woo, who took a majority stake in Joyce in 2000. Ma described their parting from the company as "an amicable separation."

As for herself, Ma, 42, said, "I've done what I'm doing now for 10 years and I have been running the whole company for 17 years. Naturally, it comes to me to ask, 'Would I be anyone without this big umbrella shielding me?' I want to answer that.

"My father is chairman, but if my mother decides to retire and I decide to spread my wings, he's not staying without us."

Ma added that although her parents are both retiring, she would not. "I'm taking a break, then trying something new," she said. "It will definitely be in the world of brands, but nothing's concrete yet. I am definitely not going to work 20 hours a day next week. I'll take at least two months off."

Trading of Joyce shares was suspended on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pending an announcement from the company in relation to a proposed privatization.

It is understood Peter Woo, who controls parent company Lane Crawford Joyce Group, will launch an offer to buy the remaining outstanding shares, some of which are held by the Ma family.

Lane Crawford has made significant investments in Joyce and doubled the business in the past few years, according to market sources.

Recently the company has been expanding its China business with the opening of several monobrand stores as well as a Joyce multibrand boutique, which opened in Shanghai in May. Also last May, the company unveiled a new, expanded Joyce flagship in Hong Kong. Currently there are four Joyce stores and 44 monobrand shops operated by the company. It is understood management has a five-year plan to continue expanding Joyce, particularly with monobrand stores in the region.

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