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LeAnn Nealz Exits Juicy Couture

President and chief creative officer steps down at the brand, which is in the midst of a turn around.

LeAnn Nealz is stepping down as president and chief creative officer at Juicy Couture. Her last day in the office will be March 1.

The brand — which is still best known for its track suit heyday — has been struggling for traction for some time. Paul Blum, who has previously worked at Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. and David Yurman, was brought on board as chief executive officer in December to turn the brand around. Juicy is owned by Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc., which is also the corporate parent to Kate Spade and Lucky Brand.

 

William L. McComb, ceo of Fifth & Pacific, said in a memo that Nealz decided to leave her post. “LeAnn joined the company in November 2010 and has overseen a creative relaunch of the brand,” McComb said. “I am extremely grateful to her for the vision she has brought and her indefatigable spirit and hard work. While we still have some work to do to right the ship at Juicy, there is no question that the design direction and brand imagery has drastically improved under LeAnn’s leadership.”

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McComb added that Blum had a “clear blueprint to grow the business” and that “an announcement about the design and merchandising organization will be made in the weeks to come.”

Product initiatives for 2013 and spring 2014 will not be impacted by the change.

McComb has said that he is open to exploring ways to unlock value in the company’s portfolio of brands and investors have been pushing to position the quickly growing Kate Spade as a stand-alone company. At least one Asian player is said to be interested in the prospect of buying Juicy Couture and several private equity companies are believed to be preparing a run at Lucky Brand.

In October, McComb told analysts on a conference call that Juicy was performing much better internationally than in the U.S. “The fashions are well-liked, the brand is very strong and while we have the same call for improved handbags and accessories, the business has considerably more traction,” he said. “The Regent Street and Westfield stores in London are good examples, as well as the Middle East and Asian territories.”

Last year, Juicy logged adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $23 million to $24 million, according to company estimates. Sales totaled $499 million.

For 2013, the brand’s adjusted EBITDA is expected to range from a loss of $5 million to a profit of $5 million while sales come in flat to slightly down.