NEW YORK — Herbert Mines, the dean of the executive search profession and an early advocate of out-of-the-box retail recruiting, died Friday afternoon at a hospice in Jupiter, Fla., following a long bout with cancer.

Mines, who was 75, had a second home in Jupiter and also lived in Mamaroneck, N.Y. He was chairman of the executive search firm Herbert Mines Associates, which he founded in 1981. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Larchmont Temple, 75 Larchmont Ave., Larchmont, N.Y.

In his day, Mines placed everyone from Arthur Martinez at Sears to Philip Miller and Rose Marie Bravo at Saks Fifth Avenue and Burton M. Tansky at Bergdorf Goodman.

The lanky, 6-foot-5-inch Mines had a reserved and dignified manner, but his search methods were among the most resourceful and unorthodox. When Edward Brennan, a former chief executive officer of Sears, Roebuck was seeking his successor, Mines flew out to Chicago to convince Brennan to consider Martinez, who at the time was vice chairman of Saks Fifth Avenue and had already accepted an offer to run the former Bergner’s chain in Milwaukee.

Despite the fact that Martinez was more a financial executive than a merchant, “Herb convinced Brennan he needed to see Martinez right away,” said Hal Reiter, ceo of Herbert Mines Associates. He did, and Martinez switched to Sears, but not without Bergner suing Sears and Martinez. The legal entanglement was eventually resolved financially. Martinez became the first non-merchant to head up a major retail chain and is now retired.

“Herb was extremely ethical,” said Martinez. “Before presenting me with Sears he conferred with my attorney and they determined there was nothing inappropriate.

“Herb had a consummate understanding of who the winners were — the good people and the good companies,” Martinez added. “He took the time to get to know them.”

Among other Mines-led searches that raised eyebrows over the years were recruiting Len Roberts, president of Arby’s, to become president of the Radio Shack division of Tandy. Roberts eventually rose to ceo of the division. About a year ago, Mines took Mark Cosby from KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and placed him at Sears as president of retail stores.There were several other high-profile ceo and president placements by Mines, notably Roger Farah at Woolworth’s. Currently, Farah is president and chief operating officer of Polo/Ralph Lauren Corp., while Bravo is ceo of Burberry, Miller is a consultant, and Tansky is ceo of the Neiman Marcus Group.

A call from Mines got the adrenaline going. As Tansky once said: “When the phone rang and my wife said it’s Herb Mines, my daughter would say, ‘Oops. We’re moving again.’”

Allen Questrom, the chairman and ceo of J.C. Penney Co., was never recruited by Mines, but Mines helped him find new talent and the two would brainstorm about other retail executives. “He was a real gentleman with a nice manner about him,” Questrom said. “Of all the search people out there, he really knew his way around the retail business. He was in retailing for the long term, and unlike other executive search firms that sound different notes and conduct searches for various industries, Herbert Mines was the principal human resource for retailing. That’s where he really specialized and his firm, though it’s gone into other areas, is still considered a leader in retailing.”

“He set the mark for a world-class search firm that specialized in our industry,” added Kirk Palmer of the executive search firm Kirk Palmer & Associates. “He was full of class and a true gentleman all the way. Herb was certainly recognized as one of the best in the industry and was perceived as a genuine strategic leader. A lot of people would say he provided them with wise counsel in their own individual careers.’’

Before opening his own practice, Mines spent many years working in human resource departments and training programs of various retailers. After attaining a master’s degree in industrial relations from Cornell University, he worked in human resources at G. Fox and later Macy’s, where he stayed for 12 years, rising to administrator and running the training program. He shifted to Neiman Marcus, where he was senior vice president for personnel and administration and a member of the executive committee, reporting to Stanley Marcus. Four years later, he became senior vice president of human resources for Revlon, reporting to Charles Revson.Based on his experience inside the big department store groups, Mines saw that fresh talent would have to come from outside the sector. “Herb forecasted years ago that there would be a dearth of talent, when retailers began curtailing their training programs,” Reiter said.

In 1973, Mines acquired an ownership interest in Wells Management Corp. where he served as chairman and ceo of the search and consulting division, and president of Business Careers Inc., a diverse retail search practice owned by Wells. When the company was sold, the deal had a non-compete clause restricting Mines from practicing within a 50-mile radius of midtown Manhattan. Without missing a beat, Mines got in his car, set the odometer to zero, drove 50 miles and opened Herbert Mines Associates in Westport, Conn., with his co-worker, Jane Vergari. He relocated his office back to Manhattan after the non-compete restriction expired. The firm became specialists in recruiting for retail, fashion, apparel, textiles, beauty, consumer products and e-commerce. In 1993, Mines brought Reiter on board as president and chief operating officer. Reiter became ceo in 1998 when Mines assumed the chairman’s title.

Mines’ first search as an independent recruiter was for Federated Department Stores, placing Michael Babcock at the Filene’s division in Boston. Filene’s is currently owned by May Department Stores. Over two decades later, Mines continued to do searches for Federated. even though at one time Federated sued Mines, accusing him of having wrongfully induced Matthew Serra, then ceo of Federated’s Stern’s division, to violate his contract by joining Foot Locker, which was then called Venator. Mines fought back, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said it was intended to harass Herbert Mines Associates and to “intimidate” executive recruiters from considering Federated executives as candidates. Eventually, the case was quietly dismissed after a meeting between the principles of both companies. Herbert Mines Associates continues to this day to work for Federated.

“Herb set a standard for executive search in the retail and apparel business, which elevated all of us,” saidElaine Hughes of E.A. Hughes & Company, another search firm that competes with Mines Associates. “He really showed what a thorough executive search process can do to help improve the top and bottom line of an organization.”Hughes also noted the impact Mines had on establishing retained executive searches as the industry norm for mid- and senior-level work. Previously, search work was primarily done on contingency, meaning more than one firm could get involved in a search and whoever landed the candidate would get paid. On the other hand, retained searches are exclusive, and fees are not dependent on placement so generally retailers obtain fuller appraisals of candidates. Mines conducted the first retained executive search in retail, placing a top executive at Bamberger’s in 1974, while at Business Careers. His fee was $6,000. Mines would eventually be hired to conduct searches bringing in seven figures, including the industry’s first when Martinez joined Sears in 1992.

Among his charitable activities, Mines was active in the American Jewish Committee. “He got me to join the AJC’s executive committee,” said Michael Gould, chairman and ceo of Bloomingdale’s. “He was the definition of a mensch — a true humanist.”

Mines is survived by his wife, Barbara; a daughter Susan, and two grandchildren.

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