The top management of Limited Brands’ Express division is on the fast track to other jobs.
Paul Raffin, president of Express and the brand’s top merchant, will become chief executive officer of Frette North America by the end of February. Meade Rudasill, president and chief operating officer of Express, will join QVC as chief operating officer on Feb. 5.
The QVC post is a new position resulting from a restructuring of responsibilities held by executives Bill Costello and Tom Downs, who both will retire on March 31.
Aside from overseeing the U.S. operations of the Italian luxury linen company, Raffin will seek to expand the brand by rolling out more retail stores and stepping up wholesaling and e-commerce. Brand extensions are also part of the growth plan, including ready-to-wear. There are seven Frette stores in the U.S. and more than 50 around the world.
“The brand needs strong management fundamentals and growth in existing categories before we develop other opportunities,” Raffin said. “Ultimately, the vision is to build an iconic luxury brand.”
The brand sells some rtw, but Raffin said it’s “an accessory” to the linen collection that could become a more significant element.
Limited Brands is believed to be considering eventually spinning or selling its apparel division, which includes Limited Stores and Express. Some analysts have predicted it could happen this spring.But sources close to the company said it might take longer and that Limited has to continue to improve the performance and raise the value of its apparel division before trying to sell it or take it public.
“While the search for new leadership is under way, we are confident that the strong team we have in place at Express will continue to drive improved performance,” Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and ceo of Limited Brands, said in a statement.
Milan-based Frette, founded in 1860, has a history of selling its high-end bed and bath linens and homeware to leading hotels and resorts, as well as to aristocratic European families, the Vatican, the Orient Express and the Titanic.
Frette is owned by JH Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm that also owns Jurlique, Chef’s Catalog, GoSmile and Napastyle, and has taken public the Bare Escentuals, Design Within Reach and Peet’s Coffee and Tea brands. “JH Partners differentiate themselves from many private equity firms in that they take a long-term view of the investment strategy and are really devoted to building brands in their portfolio and supporting management teams through the operational experience that comprises the JH team,” Raffin said.
John Hansen, president of JH Partners and chairman of Frette, said Raffin’s “entrepreneurial experience and international perspective provide the strategic leadership needed to nurture the best in Frette and take the company forward in the U.S.”
“The choice of Paul Raffin is consistent with the aim at Frette of adding superior professional talents to the existing global management pool,” said Frette Group ceo Enrico Marinelli.
Raffin has been with Express for more than nine years. Previously, he held senior positions with J. Crew and Colours by Alexander Julian. He described the 2006 performance at Express as “an extremely significant recovery from the financial performance of 2005.”
In previous roles at Limited, Rudasill served as president and ceo of Beauty Avenues, a $1.3 billion subsidiary he established to commercialize brands and source globally for Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, Henri Bendel, Pink Retail Brands and external brands in the beauty and personal care sector. He was responsible for wholesale, product and fragrance development, manufacturing and operations, global sourcing and quality.
He was also co-leader of Bath & Body Works, Limited’s personal care division, with responsibility for human resources, culture-shaping, retail process, commercialization and demand chain.
Before Limited Brands, Rudasill was chief operating officer and executive vice president of retail operations at Banc One and vice president and general manager of advanced technology at Allied Signal.
Last week, there were two other high-level management changes at Limited Brands. Pia Ferrario became ceo of Victoria’s Secret Direct, succeeding Mindy Meads, who left the company. Linda Heasley and Avra Myers were named president of Limited Stores, succeeding Chuck Turlinski, who also left the company.