By  on November 17, 2005

NEW YORK — Nike Inc. has named Converse chief financial officer Lisa Kempa president of its Exeter Brands Group division, which caters to Wal-Mart and other value retailers.

The move is intended to bring Exeter, which includes the Starter, Team Starter and Asphalt brands, into a closer working relationship with Converse, Nike said.

"Putting Exeter under the leadership of Lisa Kempa and creating a strong link to the expertise and resources at Converse enables us to accelerate growth and competitively leverage the strengths of the Nike Inc. portfolio," Nike chief executive officer Bill Perez said in a statement.

Kempa, 37, will continue to report to Converse ceo Jack Boys. Kempa replaces Mary Gleason, whose former company, Group 3 Design, relaunched the Starter athletic label five years ago and made its mark building brands such as Bugle Boy and McKids in the mass channel. Gleason said in statement that she will "return to developing new brand opportunities."

Kempa's job at Converse has been taken by Michael Prince, who had worked in the Converse finance division. He will also report to Boys. Kempa joined Converse in 2001 as part of the management team that helped Converse emerge from bankruptcy, and she helped oversee the integration after Converse was acquired by Nike in 2003.

Nike bought the Starter properties in August 2004 for $43 million as part of a larger plan to build its brand portfolio outside the core Nike label and tap new distribution channels. The Starter brands are seen as a growth engine in the company. Nike's other subsidiaries include Cole Haan, Nike Bauer Hockey and Hurley. The company's "other businesses" division had sales last year of $1.7 billion.

In March, Exeter launched at Wal-Mart a new line of Starter performance footwear, and there are plans for Starter to develop high-performance apparel, as well, Gleason said in an interview earlier this year. Exeter also includes the Shaq and Dunkman brands. Starter has several licenses for different product categories, but the brand is making the transition to a wholesale model and some categories are now being made in house.

Exeter recently said its Dunkman Game shoe worn by Shaquille O'Neal will be sold a Payless ShoeSource stores.

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