By  on December 26, 2000

LOS ANGELES -- Sirena Apparel Group Inc. has fired its vice chairman and president, Doug Arbetman, eliminated his position and reallocated his responsibilities, according to Brian Zientek, the company's chief executive officer.

Zientek told WWD that Arbetman's last day was Dec. 16.

"I've eliminated his position because our business has restructured," said Zientek.

In a phone interview, Arbetman said that the company notified him of his termination on Dec.11

"I hope the company does absolutely great," Arbetman said.

"I put 11 years of my heart into company and I helped with the turnaround.

"It's very sad because I have such a passion for the business, but I will be back in the business soon," he added.

Sirena has been on the comeback trail, having emerged from bankruptcy Aug. 4, and has rebounded somewhat with new orders and the return of private label orders from Wal-Mart and Kmart, Zientek said.

The company is expected to hit about $38 million in revenues this year, with 80 percent branded business and 20 percent from private label, as was previously reported.

"We brought in David Burnett to head up Liz Claiborne and Elisabeth swimwear merchandising, which made Doug's position redundant," said Zientek. He noted that he has also taken over some of Arbetman's responsibilities and reallocated the remainder.

"There weren't any disagreements between us," Zientek claimed. "It was a question of the company being restructured, coming out of bankruptcy and looking at every opportunity to save as much as we could. The market is getting more competitive, and given David's and my expertise, we needed to narrow our focus."

Arbetman had survived turbulent times at Sirena. He held the position of president and chief executive officer until October 1997 when Maurice "Corky" Newman joined the firm. At that time, Arbetman took the title of president and began overseeing design, merchandising and sales.

Sirena started its downward spiral in June 1999 with the dismissals of Newman as ceo and chairman, and Richard Gerhart as chief financial officer, amid reports that the company had issued misleading financial statements.The company then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 25.

Newman and Gerhart were both subsequently arrested by the FBI at the end of November and indicted on charges of securities fraud. Both have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial, which was postponed and is now slated to begin on Feb.13.

Zientek joined Sirena in February and has been instrumental in the turnaround.

The company currently produces Sirena, its 40-year-old flagship misses' brand and Wear Abouts coverups. It also holds the license for Liz Claiborne and its Elisabeth plus-size line.

Five other lines were discontinued in March. The Anne Klein license expired Dec.31, 1999, but the company finished the season it was working on and shipped product through July.

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