NEW YORK — Simon Critchell, a former Compagnie Financière Richemont AG executive, will move here from London to become chief executive officer of fine jewelry firm Fred Leighton, according to industry sources.

In April, Fred Leighton was acquired by Ralph Esmerian, a fourth-generation fine jewelry dealer, in cooperation with lending partner Global Asset Based Finance Group, a division of Merrill Lynch, for an undisclosed sum.

Officials at Fred Leighton declined to comment.

Critchell was head of Richemont North America until 2001, including its Cartier division, when he was moved to the firm’s Dunhill division as ceo. He helped relaunch Dunhill as a more female-friendly brand and initiated its global store concept with a softer line of accessories and a custom tailoring service for women and men. He stepped down for personal reasons earlier this spring.

Leighton was founded in 1971 by Murray Mondschein, who later changed his name to Fred Leighton. It specializes in estate jewelry and counts Nicole Kidman and Madonna among its celebrity fans.

Esmerian told WWD in April that he plans to open a second Fred Leighton store in Las Vegas and a boutique in Beverly Hills. The company has a 1,800-square-foot store in The Bellagio in Las Vegas and a 2,000-square-foot flagship on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

There are also plans to grow the firm’s small watch collection and signature jewelry line.

This story first appeared in the May 30, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.