In the midst of the economy’s collapse, 2008 welcomed in some new faces — or at least new to their companies — into chief executive officer suites. Since taking new posts in the last six months, these executives have been familiarizing themselves with the state of their firms and stand poised to unfold their complete business plans in early 2009. Here are a few to watch: • Jill Granoff, chief executive officer of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.: Granoff left Liz Claiborne Inc. as executive vice president of direct brands to become ceo of Kenneth Cole in May. With a strong background in retail — with Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand while at Claiborne, and Victoria’s Secret before that — Granoff has said she sees growth opportunities in Kenneth Cole’s retail and e-commerce sides, which could help grow the company to a $1 billion brand. As the first ceo other than Cole himself, Granoff will likely unveil her plans in January, about eight months after she assumed the role. • Michael Kramer, ceo of Kellwood Co.: Kramer, the former chief financial officer of Abercrombie & Fitch, took the top spot at Kellwood around August. Sun Capital Partners Inc. chose him to replace Robert C. Skinner Jr. at the $1 billion vendor, about six months after the private equity company privatized the St. Louis-based business. Kramer already unveiled some of his plans, including putting Hollywould up for sale in October, but further changes and consolidation are expected early in the new year. • Robert C. Skinner Jr., ceo of Lacoste: After Skinner left Kellwood in July, he was named to the top post at Lacoste USA in September, replacing Robert Siegel, who is retiring at the end of the year after seven years at the French brand. After meeting with Lacoste’s New York and Paris teams since October, Skinner is expected to unveil his plans in early January. They will likely include growth paths for the firm’s women’s business, which currently makes up just a third of the company’s sales, but he has said it could equal its men’s business. All of these executives have had their learning curves steepened by the challenging economy, and their plans will undoubtedly include recession-minded cost cuts and moderated growth rollouts.
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