NEW YORK — As part of its efforts to take control of licensed businesses in emerging markets, Polo Ralph Lauren said Friday that it has assumed direct ownership of its brand in Argentina.

Polo Ralph Lauren products and stores exist in 16 other countries throughout Central and South America, a spokeswoman said. Exxel Group had held the license to distribute Polo products, both wholesale and retail, in Argentina, but Polo terminated the license, she said.

"Direct ownership of our business in Argentina is an essential part of our growth and development in this key region," Lance Isham, vice chairman of Polo, said in a statement. "I’m confident that this strategic move will enable us to better evaluate emerging business opportunities that support Polo Ralph Lauren’s global business initiatives."

As a result of the move, Polo will directly operate its three stores in Argentina, located in Alvear, Uni-Center shopping center and Galerias Pacifico. The locations will close for refurbishing and are planned to reopen in March 2003, when they will exclusively carry men’s Purple Label and Polo products, and women’s collections, Black Label and Blue Label. Some South American Polo stores carry other labels. For instance, the Polo Ralph Lauren store at the Fashion Mall in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also carries products from Dockers.

Polo has taken over several of its international operations in recent years as part of its long-term strategy, including licenses throughout Europe and Japan.

Polo also named Roberto Devorik as managing director of retail development for South America, a new position. He will be responsible for managing Polo Ralph Lauren’s retail presence throughout South America, and will be based in New York and Buenos Aires, Argentina, reporting to Isham.

Devorik was principal and managing director for a variety of luxury retail licenses throughout Europe and Latin America, including Versace, Krizia, Iceberg, Christian Lacroix and Gianfranco Ferré.

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