Saks Sees Executive Exodus as Shareholders Approve Deal

The company’s stockholders approved the $2.9 billion buyout by Hudson’s Bay Co.

NEW YORK — Hudson’s Bay Co.’s $2.9 billion takeover of Saks Inc. is set to close Monday and personnel changes are already sweeping through the retailer.

This story first appeared in the October 31, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Saks shareholders signed off on the deal Wednesday morning at a special meeting at the University Club here. Later in the day, outgoing chairman and chief executive officer Stephen Sadove detailed a raft of high-level departures in an internal memo obtained by WWD.

Among those leaving is Robert Wallstrom, executive vice president and president of Saks Off 5th, who sources said will become ceo of Vera Bradley, the $540 million multichannel company selling colorful accessories, handbags, luggage, eyewear, travel items and gifts. Before running Off 5th, Wallstrom managed the Saks Fifth Avenue Manhattan flagship.

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Also headed for the exit are Denise Incandela, EVP and chief marketing officer; Terron Schaefer, EVP and chief creative officer; Kevin Wills, EVP and chief financial officer; Michael Rodgers, EVP and chief information and operations officer; Mike Brizel, EVP and general counsel; Chris Morena, EVP of human resources, and Julia Bentley, senior vice president of investor relations and communications.

Sadove and Ron Frasch, president and chief merchant, indicated they were leaving last month.

Now the focus shifts to Richard Baker, Hudson’s Bay’s governor and ceo, who has his team lined up and his plan laid out.

“With the addition of Saks Fifth Avenue, we will begin an exciting new era for HBC,” Baker said in a statement. “By uniting Saks, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, we are creating a platform built upon three brands with a rich heritage in retailing….We plan to invest in the growth potential of each brand and category. And we will unlock the tremendous potential of the company’s world-class real estate assets.”

All together, Baker will oversee a retail empire with 320 doors, including 179 full-line department stores, 72 outlet stores and 69 home stores.

While Saks will remain headquartered in New York, Hudson’s Bay plans to expand the banner to Canada with as many as seven full-line stores over the next several years.

Marigay McKee of Harrods will become president of Saks on Jan. 6.

According to Sadove’s memo, three members of Saks’ current executive committee are expected to stay on board, including EVP of stores Jennifer de Winter, who was promoted to chief merchandising officer; Michael Burgess, president of Saks Direct, and Keith Campbell, group SVP of merchandise planning.

Liz Rodbell will become president of the HBC Department Store Group, including Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, on Feb. 1. Both McKee and Rodbell will report to the office of the chairman, which includes Baker and the company’s chief operating officer Don Watros.

Bonnie Brooks will also become vice chairman of the company on Feb. 1 and will continue to advise the office of the chairman and the board of directors.

The Saks shareholder meeting was a largely pro forma event that lasted less than 10 minutes and was attended mostly by the retailer’s management and lawyers. Shareholders were able to vote by proxy, and 99.4 percent of the total votes cast were in favor of the deal.

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There was a single question from the audience — when the deal would close — and Sadove said it would probably wrap up on Monday.

He thanked the people who worked on the takeover and said, “It’s certainly been a highly emotional period for the team going through this.”

Sadove, who recently joined the board of J.C. Penney Co. Inc., said his last day at Saks would be Friday and that he was “not going to run another company for a while.”

Frasch said he didn’t have any plans, beyond playing some golf, spending more time with his young children and serving as baseball coach.