NEW YORK — Call it a hair war.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
John Barrett and his chief executive officer Jim Hedges had a bold vision for reshaping the concept of a luxury salon and launching an ambitious expansion plan, including the opening of 15 Saks Fifth Avenue salons by the end of 2017 and 25 freestanding units within five years.
That grand alliance exploded Tuesday afternoon when Barrett fired Hedges — during which, a source said, he told his ceo, “I am terminating you for cause, suspected of fraud.”
Hedges, who told WWD that the charge was “baseless,” said Barrett fired him in the midst of a crowd of 30 or 40 people at the Bergdorf Goodman salon. The former ceo described the confrontation as having “a public lynching mentality” and said he exited quickly.
Via a spokeswoman, Rachel Whitmore, Barrett — whose clients include everyone from Upper East Side New Yorkers to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Hollywood stars — declined to comment on the level of acrimony. “We never comment on personnel matters,” she stated.
While the situation is clearly fraught with legal issues and questions, it seems that the highly charged split was a falling out between a superstar hairstylist and his minority investor, who was in the process of searching for additional capital to fund a bold vision aimed at turning the Barrett salon into a global luxury brand.
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When asked why Hedges was terminated, Whitmore stated, “The funding for the expansion did not materialize as promised. As John has had a thriving salon business at Bergdorf Goodman for 20 years, he was confident it was in the best interest of the business for him to take back control to ensure future growth and success.”
As for the future of the expansion plan, she said, “The plans will be reduced…we are not yet certain as to the exact specifics of the plans. We will release our revised plans as soon as anything is solidified in light of these changes.”
When asked if the company was losing money, the spokeswoman responded: “The core business at Bergdorf Goodman is highly profitable and is up over last year. As the projected funding did not come through as planned, we are scaling back accordingly. John is currently reviewing the state of the business and assessing all plans for viability to ensure the health of the business long-term.”
It was also learned that Barrett decided to shutter the relatively new Bond Street salon in New York’s SoHo on Saturday, at least temporarily. It has been plagued with operational problems since October, delaying a fully functional opening.
“We had to close the Bond Street salon this week and are exhausting all possible options to resolve this situation,” Whitmore said. “There have been ongoing issues with the electricity as previously reported and we are dealing with this among other issues in light of the current situation and are determining if these can be remedied in the coming weeks.”
The Bond Street clients are now being serviced in the Bergdorf flagship salon.
The newly opened Barrett salon in the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Boca Raton, Fla., has been closed, the spokeswoman said. Hedges signed a deal with Saks last September under which Barrett would shutter his Bergdorf’s salon and open one at the Saks flagship on Fifth Avenue, as well as in 15 other Saks stores nationwide.
There was no statement on the fate of plans to open a new 16,000-square-foot flagship later this year in a mansion at 10 East 56th Street in Manhattan, once the home of Elizabeth Taylor. In September, shortly before the Saks deal was revealed, Hedges threw a bash at the building during which Barrett proclaimed his enthusiasm over his new partner and the growth plan.
Hedges had also leased a 3,600-square-foot space at the Westfield World Trade Center shopping area for yet another salon — with 37 to 40 chairs — and retail space that had been slated to open in June.
Since Hedges was an investor in the business, his status as a shareholder was a question mark at press time. “The details of this arrangement will need to be worked out, but we cannot offer any further comment at this point,” the spokeswoman stated.