NEW YORK — William R. Chaney, Tiffany & Co.’s chairman, will retire on Jan. 31, and Michael J. Kowalski, who is president and chief executive officer, will take over the position.

Chaney, who is 70, will continue to serve on Tiffany’s board, and Kowalski will remain ceo, while James E. Quinn, the vice chairman, has taken over the position of president.

"During the past 20 years, Mike has served Tiffany & Co. with great success in a wide variety of responsibilities," Chaney said in a statement. "During the last four years, he has led the company through a challenging period with great distinction."

As ceo in the Eighties and Nineties, Chaney led Tiffany’s through a leveraged buyout, public offering, global expansion and product-line expansion. He has served as chairman since 1984.

Kowalski, 50, has been with Tiffany for 20 years, serving in a variety of departments, including finance, merchandising, marketing, operations and sales. He became president in 1997 and assumed the ceo post in 1999.

Tiffany, one of the world’s best-known jewelers, has 131 company-operated stores worldwide, with sales of $1.09 billion in the first nine months of 2002. There are now Tiffany stores in 17 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the U.K., Hong Kong, Italy and France.

Earlier this month, Tiffany said it faced some challenges during the crucial holiday selling season, causing it to lower earnings guidance to the range of 57 to 62 cents a share, from 60 to 65 cents.

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