In a move described as an enhancement of its management rather than a precursor to a succession announcement, Richard Dickson, an Estée Lauder veteran who has overseen the growth of Mattel Inc.’s Barbie brand, has joined Jones Apparel Group Inc. as president of the company and taken on the new post of chief executive officer of its branded business.

This story first appeared in the February 2, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

While relinquishing the title of president, Wesley Card remains ceo of the company, a post he’s held since July 2007.

Card told WWD that Dickson, 41, will be responsible for all of the firm’s wholesale and retail businesses worldwide, with the ceo’s of the divisions reporting to him. Dickson will report to Card, who will continue to oversee the administrative and financial divisions, such as operations, legal, finance and human resources.

When asked if Dickson might be his heir apparent, Card downplayed any idea he might be leaving soon.

“Good succession planning requires great talent. I’m committed to the company here for many years to come. I want the company to be hugely successful,” said Card, 62.

Card’s employment contract with Jones runs through June 30, 2011, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Jones said it has no mandatory retirement age.

Card met Dickson in mid-2009 as part of his initiative to scout young talent, a process Card described as “deliberate and thoughtful.” Card also said he and Dickson shared the same values, a focus on “people, product and execution.”

He noted that, with the progress the firm has been making, and its core businesses steady across the globe, Jones has been working on new initiatives with seasoned executives.

“It was a good time to bring in new talent in order to achieve all the growth on our plate,” Card said.

Dickson, who starts at Jones on Feb. 8, said, “I am pleased to be rejoining the fashion industry, and partnering with the talent at Jones, with Wes’ guidance.”

Dickson was most recently senior vice president and general manager of Mattel’s Barbie unit. Before joining Mattel in 2000, Dickson was vice president of brand management and merchandising for the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.’s online business. Prior to that he launched Gloss.com, which was acquired by Lauder in 2000. Earlier in his career, he spent over 10 years in a variety of positions at Bloomingdale’s.

Dickson is widely credited with turning around the Barbie’s brand. In a research note Monday from BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick L. Johnson said the product line had been “struggling to find its footing for the better part of the last eight years,” but worldwide Barbie shipments rose 12 percent in the fourth quarter. Calling Dickson “the architect of this ‘turnaround,’” he expressed concern about his departure for Jones.

Dickson said, “Jones has a fantastic portfolio of brands, operating with the same principles as the toy industry. Ultimately, all the functions involving brands and design, marketing, and retail relationships and strategies are about managing the intellectual property. My experience in the consumer package goods industry, blended with the experience from Lauder and Bloomingdale’s, lends itself to a skill set that will be [well utilized] at Jones.”

Jones’ shares Monday were up 20 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $14.64.

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