NEW YORK -- In the first high-level departure since the Federated and Macy's merger was approved last Thursday, Arthur E. Reiner, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy's East, will leave the company on Oct. 14.

Reiner, a 32-year veteran of Macy's, was a cornerstone of the store, the only retail company for which he ever worked. But his leaving is no surprise. He is one of the few senior-level holdovers of the Edward Finkelstein regime. Most have left the company since it went bankrupt in January 1992.

More high-level executives are exiting due to the merger and the dismantling of R.H. Macy's corporate office in the Herald Square flagship store.

Sources said two senior vice presidents -- Diane Baker, finance and Herbert Hellman, general counsel -- will be next out the door.

And, as reported, Roger N. Farah, R.H. Macy president, is also expected to leave and take his court-approved $14 million severance package with him.

Executive vice president Thomas Shull and two senior planners, Eugene Rohrer and James Kenney, also left this month.

In Reiner's case, the anticipated consolidation of Federated's Abraham & Straus division into Macy's East is apparently squeezing him out. There is strong speculation that Hal Kahn, chairman and ceo of A&S, will succeed Reiner, though no successor was announced Tuesday.

Sources said Allen Questrom, chairman and ceo of Federated, was in talks with Reiner about placing him elsewhere within Federated, but that Reiner was only interested in a New York post and opted for a golden parachute at close to $2 million. It reportedly provides for three years pay plus a bonus. Reiner has been earning a base salary of around $650,000.

Reiner declined to comment on any offers from Federated or his severance package.

He is regarded as a strong administrator, well-liked by many of his colleagues, and as having strong ties to vendors. His reputation as a hard-goods merchant is solid, while some retail executives said he lacks flair in women's ready-to-wear.

Robert Friedman, chairman of Loehmann's and a longtime Macy's executive, said, "I think Art is one of the best retail executives in the country. People like working for him. He's decisive, fair and a good listener." "He had good instincts, gives positive direction and never vacillated, but he's not flamboyant," said a former associate. "He's very careful about what he does and says. He's a good leader.""He's a good, strong, conservative leader," said another source. "Always a gentleman."

"After 32 years with Macy's, the decision to leave the company was not an easy one," Reiner said. "However, in light of the merger with Federated and the transition now under way at the company, I concluded that this was an appropriate time to explore new paths."

After his last day at the store, he said he plans to vacation out West and take time off to review his options. He said he will seek a post related to the industry.

"There are many categories of retail out there. I don't want to foreclose anything."

He said he is leaving Macy's as "a well-balanced business, moving in the right directions, with broad-based stores, a growing bridge business, a continuing great home business" as well as a moderate business that's being strengthened.

"There's many people I feel close to," he said. "Leaving these people is difficult."

Reiner, 54, has been chairman and ceo of Macy's East since 1992, when the company formed the division by combining Macy's Northeast with most of Macy's South. The $3.4 billion division operates 59 full-line stores, including the flagship unit on Herald Square.

Reiner began his retailing career in July 1962 in the training squad of the former Bamberger's division of Macy's. He rose to senior vice president over home furnishings and cosmetics and shifted to the New York division in 1975 as senior vice president of merchandising. In 1978, Reiner became president of Macy's New York and in 1988, chairman and ceo of Macy's Northeast.

Reiner was instrumental in maintaining the preeminence of the Herald Square flagship.

"It was Finkelstein's vision that put it in the forefront; It was art that got it done and sustained it for all these years," said one former Macy's executive. "As the company expanded with other stores, Herald Square remained one of the most exciting department stores to walk into. That's a difficult task when you're running a large division."

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