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Vince Founders Rea Laccone, Christopher LaPolice to Exit

The departures come at a time when Kellwood’s parent, Sun Capital Partners, has been exploring an initial public offering for the contemporary brand.

Rea Laccone and Christopher LaPolice

NEW YORK — Vince cofounders Rea Laccone and Christopher LaPolice plan to leave the Kellwood Co. division Feb. 1.

This story first appeared in the January 9, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The departures come at a time when Kellwood’s parent, private-equity firm Sun Capital Partners, has been looking to partially monetize its investment in Kellwood and has been exploring an initial public offering for Vince.

“Our time at Vince, from its founding to the present, has encompassed some of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of our lives,” said Laccone. “As we leave the company we cofounded nearly 12 years ago, we are proud of the growth and stature that the company has achieved. We want to thank our very talented team that has contributed so much to the success of the company as well as our retail partners for their generous support all these years.”

Laccone and LaPolice sold Vince to Kellwood in 2006 for an undisclosed sum. Vince’s volume at the time was around $35 million. Today, the company generates $250 million. At the time of the acquisition, Kellwood was still a public company under the leadership of Robert C. Skinner. Sun took Kellwood private in 2008 for $762 million.

Laccone, chief executive officer, and LaPolice, president, are credited with building the hot contemporary brand whose key accounts are Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. Founded in 2002, the company is known for its luxury sportswear at accessible prices.

LaPolice said their departure was something they had been contemplating for a long time. “It’s been in the works. It’s not a knee-jerk decision. We agreed to stay on for five years and stayed for almost seven,” said LaPolice.

LaPolice, who ran sales and marketing, and Laccone, who was responsible for design, merchandising and production, have a close working relationship. LaPolice was based in New York, and Laccone was headquartered in Los Angeles, but they spoke on the phone five out of eight hours every day. “We would finish each other’s sentences. It’s been an amazing collaboration. I’ve been fortunate to be inspired by my business partner every day,” said LaPolice.

Even though the brand is considering an IPO, Laccone said if they were to stay, which Kellwood had encouraged, then they’d “have to stay for a long time” and they didn’t want to commit to that. But, she added, “We’re on terrific terms with them.”

“We had an earn-out period for five years, and we surpassed every number we could have believed,” added LaPolice.

Laccone and LaPolice met while working at Laundry by Shelli Segal, prior to its sale to Liz Claiborne Inc. Laccone said they did well financially when they sold Vince to Kellwood and no longer have a stake in the business. “I was involved with the sale of Laundry to Liz Claiborne, and we did extremely well,” she said.

The executives said Kellwood is close to naming someone to succeed them.

Jill Granoff, ceo of Kellwood, said, “Rea’s and Christopher’s hard work and design vision have made Vince a market leader. Vince offers great product that resonates deeply with consumers. Rea brought a new sensibility to the market by creating a brand with incredible DNA, while Christopher’s strategies for developing the business positioned it for impressive growth. Over the past eight months, I’ve worked closely with them both to ensure a seamless transition. We are grateful for their many contributions, and I’m confident that we have the team in place to build upon Vince’s success and unlock its potential as a global lifestyle brand.” She declined further comment about plans for the brand.

Laccone and LaPolice said they don’t have plans to run another business at this time. “I hope we don’t,” said Laccone, who earlier spent 15 years at Laundry. “I’m going into the next phase. I would like to relax, fulfill some of the bucket list,” she said. For starters, Laccone and LaPolice are headed to Africa, along with Laccone’s partner, Paul Perla, senior vice president of merchandising, who’s also leaving Vince.

In addition to selling at Neiman’s, Saks and Nordstrom, Vince also sells at Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and 500 independent specialty stores. Internationally, the brand is sold at stores such as Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols and Harrods. The company has 19 full-price Vince boutiques in such locations as Manhattan, Malibu, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, San Francisco and White Plains, N.Y., and plans to open more. Vince added men’s wear in 2007 and a denim line in 2010.

If Sun decides to do an IPO for Vince, sources said the private-equity firm would likely retain a controlling stake in Vince, allowing it to float a secondary public offering or two at a later date.