By  on June 24, 2010

There’s some friction between principal owners Emerisque Brands U.K. Ltd. and SKNL North America B.V., but all systems are go at HMX Group, which, despite market reports to the contrary, has no plans to close any of its factories, according to its chief executive officer.

“All the rumors are absolutely false,” said HMX ceo Doug Williams. “We are running our factory in Chicago at full capacity. The turnaround is functioning the way we all wanted it to. We took excess demand from Chicago and put it in our Rochester factory to support customer demand.”

Williams noted the men’s apparel firm has three factories — in Des Plaines, Ill., Rochester, N.Y., and Hamilton, Ontario — and that it no longer matters what the nameplate is on the outside of the factory.

“These factories are the core assets of HMX. Even though Rochester was our Hickey Freeman factory, we moved some production of trousers and sport coats to Rochester to support Hart Schaffner Marx. We do what we have to do to meet the demand of our customers in the U.S.,” Williams said.

When bankrupt Hartmarx Corp. needed an exit strategy in 2009, it was London-based financial investment firm Emerisque that initially bid for the men’s apparel firm. Emerisque later brought in SKNL as an additional investor. The $128.4 million transaction closed in August.

Since then, there has been occasional enmity between the owners involving fee disputes and consultancy services that arose from their shareholders’ agreement, which is now the subject of an overseas lawsuit.

Williams spoke via telephone from Mumbai after completing two meetings, one involving SKNL management and the other with the HMX board, which included SKNL’s Nitin S. Kasliwal and Emerisque’s Ajay Khaitan.

One source with knowledge of the situation said neither one wants to exit the partnership, and confirmed that both have a clear aim of making sure HMX succeeds with its goal of producing merchandise in the U.S. and marketing it on that basis. SKNL is facing pressure from the Indian shareholders for a faster return on its investment, even though the HMX turnaround is proceeding on course, the source said.

“I can’t comment on ownership down the road,” Williams said. “The challenges between the owners [are being dealt] with in the appropriate channel. [However,] their commitment to HMX and the resources [they make available] to HMX are undeniable.”

These issues, however, aren’t affecting the manner in which HMX is run.

“My goal, first and foremost, is to deliver to our customers….,” Williams told WWD. “With Joseph Abboud as my partner, we are making new products and designs that are relevant to consumers. Whether it’s the $695 [price point] or $3,000, we want to own the market, and we are well on our way to accomplish that.”

Abboud is president and chief creative officer of HMX.

While Williams acknowledged that each owner has differing opinions at times, he said neither of the partners dictates to him what decisions are to be made on how to operate the company.

“Any perception of pressure on myself or HMX to move the company offshore is false to the core,” the ceo said. “While I feel no pressure to move toward sourcing products offshore, I do look at [SKNL’s] facilities in fabric manufacturing as an opportunity to use Joe’s expertise in designing products in fabrics unique to us at a cost basis none of our competitors will get.”

SKNL, through its portfolio of brands, owns mills in India, Italy and Scotland.

Emerisque declined to comment and executives at SKNL could not be reached for comment.

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