Mark Weber

Mark Weber, the former chief executive officer of Phillips-Van Heusen, is believed to be the front-runner to become the next president and ceo of Donna...

NEW YORK — Donna Karan might have found her new man.

Mark Weber, the former chief executive officer of Phillips-Van Heusen, is believed to be the front-runner to become the next president and ceo of Donna Karan International, replacing Jeffry Aronsson, who will be leaving the company to pursue other interests.

According to sources, Karan has an approval clause for a new ceo in her contract with DKI parent LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. She is said to have met with and approved Weber.

The hire would complete an extensive executive search by LVMH, which has been conducted for more than a year, and become fodder for much industry speculation in recent months.

Bringing in Weber, 56, who is well-known in apparel circles, would be something of a surprise, since PVH’s board abruptly dismissed him as ceo after just eight months on the job. That came as a shock to the industry since Weber had spent 33 years at the firm. He had been the right-hand man to the company’s prior ceo Bruce Klatsky and was considered a natural successor to the executive, who stepped down in June 2005.

Weber is thought to be a slick, if not flamboyant executive, with a penchant for expensive designer suits and a salt-and-pepper bouffant that could be considered his personal signature.

When Weber took over as ceo, Klatsky told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting of their first encounter: “All of a sudden, this guy with this crazy hair who was wearing a suit that’s worth more than my entire wardrobe shows up outside my office.”

During the final years of his tenure at PVH, Weber was instrumental in the purchase of Calvin Klein Inc. in 2003 and its successful integration into PVH. He was also said to have become increasingly involved in Calvin Klein’s marketing and advertising strategies.

Once Weber assumed the ceo role, however, sources said his aggressive, micromanaging style clashed with the PVH board. He was replaced at PVH by Emanuel Chirico, the company’s former president and chief operating officer.

At DKI, Weber would join a list of presidents and ceo’s who have entered and exited the doors at 550 Seventh Avenue. They have included Stephen L. Ruzow and John Idol, and since LVMH purchased the brand, Pino Brusone, Fred Wilson and Aronsson.

This story first appeared in the July 14, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The move to replace Aronsson indicates that LVMH still hasn’t seen the success it anticipated when it bought DKI for over $643 million in 2001. While Karan’s recent Collection shows have been much-lauded, sources said that they have been challenging at the wholesale level with poor deliveries and uneven merchandising strategies. However, sales at company-owned stores are said to be on the upswing. In addition, the much-anticipated accessories growth never materialized.

That said, the company has tightened its belt under Aronsson to create a platform for future growth, closing underperforming distribution channels, slashing third-party retail accounts and minimizing off-price sales. Also, it has worked on improving the quality and fit of the merchandise. DKNY, meanwhile, appears to be turning around, and the brand opened stores in Dubai, Istanbul, Shanghai, Montreal, Singapore, Seoul, Bangkok, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. A Tokyo store is expected to open before the end of the year.

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