NEW YORK — George Malkemus, president of Manolo Blahnik USA, and Anthony Yurgaitis, the company’s vice president, have not renewed their long-running license with the British luxury shoe company.
A statement sent by the Manolo Blahnik U.S. business to WWD said: “After meeting with Kristina Hulsebus, Mr. Blahnik’s niece, who, along with her in-house counsel and financial adviser, offered unacceptable terms, George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, on behalf of MBUSA, have chosen not to renew their license agreement of 37 years.”
Speaking with WWD on Monday afternoon, Malkemus clarified that he and Yurgaitis’ license ends in December, and they informed staff of their license’s approaching conclusion Monday morning.
Malkemus says he met with Hulsebus on Feb. 25 and that their license agreement was “always renewable.” He added that “ideas have not always been in sync and [the relationship] sort of came to a conclusion,” but declined to go into details about he and Hulsebus’ differences.
“This was not hinged by a financial disagreement,” he clarified.
Representatives from the Manolo Blahnik headquarters in London declined comment.
According to Malkemus, who with Yurgaitis has steered the company’s U.S. business through prosperous times, including its prominent feature in the “Sex and the City” television series, the U.S. accounts for about half of Manolo Blahnik’s global sales. Manolo Blahnik in the U.K. said the U.S. represents about 40 percent of the overall business due to rapid growth in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
“Manolo and I have been friends for many, many years. When I became part of this business, I was 27 years old. Manolo and I grew up together in this wonderful journey and I learned a great deal from Manolo. I will always have amazing respect and fondness for those years and have fondness for Manolo himself. I think things have changed, it was just time for me. I just had a big birthday and was sitting myself down with Tony, who I am partners in life as well as in business, and reevaluating,” Malkemus said.
Manolo Blahnik USA operates a store at 31 West 54th Street in Manhattan, housed in a building that Malkemus and Yurgaitis own. Malkemus said the shop’s future is unclear.
The brand also is sold in Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Barneys New York and other key retailers in the U.S.
What Malkemus was resolute about is that him stepping away from the Blahnik business does not mean he is retiring. In 2013, Malkemus expanded his portfolio by teaming with “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker to launch the SJP collection shoe brand. With Blahnik soon out of his purview, Malkemus intends to focus more energy on the SJP brand.
As for launching new brands in the future, Malkemus said: “If an opportunity came into play and someone wanted my consultation, I’m certainly amenable to that.”