By  on June 4, 2007

ATLANTA — Calling it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to return to an iconic brand for a second time,” J. Merrick (Rick) Taggart has returned to Victorinox Swiss Army Inc. (VSA) as president.

Taggart, who was president and CEO of VSA from 1996 through 2001, succeeds Sue Rechner, who resigned in May. Since 2001 he has managed a number of entrepreneurial ventures, and was a professor of marketing at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo. He will report to Charles Elsener, president, Victorinox AG, and will be based in VSA’s North American headquarters in Shelton, Conn.

Taggart will continue the company’s current strategies, which is the practical luxury positioning of the brand as it relates to all categories, including men’s and women’s apparel, multi-tools, cutlery, timepieces and luggage. “While there has been tremendous growth and innovation, Victorinox Swiss Army’s commitment to quality, precision and inspired designed has remained consistent,” Taggart said.

Elsener praised Taggart, saying he “was a key contributor to the positive growth the company experienced during his tenure, and I am confident that his passion for the brand and his knowledge of our products will be the foundation for continued success of the VSA team.”

Taggart will work closely with Joh Siff, president of the apparel division. Taggart was president when VSA launched apparel under a licensing arrangement. Now, said Taggart last week, “it’s a full-blown apparel business [done by VSA].” So far, Taggart, who started his new job on May 21, is getting reacquainted with the company. “I’ve been away for six years,” he said, adding that about half of senior management has changed since then, “and I’m trying to get my arms around the different managers and their concerns and challenges to map a strategy going forward.”

As for returning to VSA, he said, “I can see the challenges and I like where the brand has evolved.” He said he was looking forward to “bringing the two names [Victorinox and Swiss Army] together. But there are moments of sheer fright when I realize it’s been six years and [I need to get] back up to speed.”

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