By  on July 12, 2007

NEW YORK — Liz Claiborne has entered the McComb era.

It's a time when the apparel giant retrenches from a decade of aggressive acquisitions, focuses on its strengths and sheds its weaknesses.

A 200-person audience at Liz Claiborne Inc.'s long-awaited Investor Day on Wednesday heard details of chief executive officer William L. McComb's ambitious turnaround plan.

Analysts were impressed by McComb's transparency, benchmark goals and research, and now will focus on the execution. The ceo outlined how he will "strategically review" 16 small brands while focusing on growing Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand, Kate Spade and Mexx from $2.2 billion today to around $3 billion by 2010.

McComb said the company is entering the fourth era of its 31-year history. The first was during Claiborne's founding years; the second, when it started leveraging competitive advantages, and the third, Paul Charron's "era of acquisition" — all leading to the newest era of prioritization, investment and divestment. (See timeline.)

"This is a company that has revolutionized the industry before and we look forward to doing it again," McComb said. "Our growth has slowed and our returns have stalled, indicating we have reached another turning point. We overplayed the acquisition playbook, but it proved a successful strategy that delivered four gems that will lead growth."

McComb outlined five actions the company will take:

- "Narrow the portfolio to select brands we can fully resource," he said, adding that, of the 16 brands under strategic review, "many require investment levels that we cannot fund with the company's new plan." The brands up for possible sale, discontinuation or licensing include Sigrid Olsen, Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy, C&C California, Laundry by Design, Enyce, Prana, Kenzie, Mac & Jac, Emma James, First Issue, Intuitions, J.H. Collectibles, Stamp 10, Tapemeasure and Tint — totaling $800 million in wholesale volume. The company has hired Centerview Partners to find buyers to which Claiborne can sell or license the brands.

- Reduce costs by $190 million total by 2010. The company has tied executive incentives to cost cutting, among other benchmarks.

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