Emanuel Ungaro CEO Jeffry Aronsson Said Out

U.S. turnaround expert departs after six months leading French design house.

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Jeffry Aronsson, the U.S. turnaround expert who took the reins as chief executive officer of Emanuel Ungaro SAS in June, is said to have left the designer firm.

This story first appeared in the December 7, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company said, “Mr. Aronsson is still the acting ceo of Ungaro.” But he has been in New York for several weeks and it is understood that he has returned for good to continue his work at Aronsson Group, his investment and consulting firm.

He had previously been shuttling back and forth between the firm’s Paris headquarters during the week and New York on the weekends, as he worked to set a new direction for the designer company.

Aronsson declined to comment Tuesday.

Consultants Marvin Traub and Mortimer Singer, as well as former Neiman Marcus Group head Burt Tansky, who joined Ungaro’s advisory committee after Aronsson took over the corner office, are also said to have ended their association with the company. Traub declined to comment and Tansky could not be reached.

The abbreviated tenure of Aronsson — who previously served as ceo at Donna Karan International, Marc Jacobs International and Oscar de la Renta — marks the end of another chapter in Ungaro’s rocky recent history.

Ungaro has been reenvisioned by a revolving door of designers since entrepreneur Asim Abdullah acquired the brand from Salvatore Ferragamo in 2005. Most famously, former president Mounir Moufarrige tapped tabloid sensation Lindsay Lohan as artistic director. But the bid for a higher profile failed to leave a positive impression and Lohan’s collection, produced in collaboration with Estrella Archs, was widely panned.

Also taking turns at the atelier in recent years were Vincent Darré, Peter Dundas, Esteban Cortazar and Giles Deacon, who left the company in September.

With all the turnover, Ungaro has failed to gain traction in the marketplace and that has shown up in its financial results. Ungaro has seen losses and declining revenues in each of the past four years, according to the French commercial court.

Losses in 2010 tallied 6.3 million euros, or $8.4 million at the average exchange rate, while revenues weighed in at 4.7 million euros, or $6.2 million — a marked decline from revenues of 13.3 million euros, or $18.3 million, in 2007 when the company had more stores.

Over the last four years, the firm has posted total losses of 37.7 million euros, or $51.4 million, on sales of 36.4 million euros, or $49.6 million. The company’s head count fell to 36 people at the end of last year from 55 at the end of 2007.

Given licenses and wholesale accounts, the total retail sales of the brand would be much higher than the company’s own revenues.

It is unclear how long Abdullah will be willing to shoulder the losses even though the brand is seen as still having potential.

Ungaro, who trained at the house of Cristóbal Balenciaga, opened his fashion house in Paris in 1965 and won acclaim, expanding his business, launching men’s wear and then a fragrance. He sold the firm to Ferragamo in 1996, showed his last ready-to-wear collection in 2001 and retired three years later.

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