NEW YORK — Ermenegildo Zegna, the Italian luxury brand, appointed former Neiman Marcus Stores men’s merchant Robert Ackerman as president and chief executive officer of its North American operation.

Ackerman, 62, retired from the Dallas-based retailer at the end of 2002 after more than 39 years with the upscale chain. He will start at Zegna on July 26 and oversee the Ermenegildo Zegna men’s and Agnona women’s wear brands.

He will work with departing ceo Richard Cohen, who will now leave the company on Aug. 15 to be ceo of St. John Knits International, the women’s luxury knitwear firm based in Irvine, Calif. He’s set to start his new job after Labor Day.

“The reasons for my choice are continuity and relationships,” said Ermenegildo Zegna, 48, chief executive of the Trivero, Italy-based company, who was here for men’s market week. “We have a very strong management team and they need to be well supported.”

Zegna said Ackerman will have the task of supporting the company’s existing strategy, which has resulted in a business worth $170 million in the U.S. in 2003. Last year, the U.S. represented 25 percent of Zegna’s total annual volume of $726.7 million, or 601 million euros. Net profits overall climbed 4.3 percent last year to $47.2 million from $45.2 million in 2002. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at the current exchange rate.

“We’re very strong in this country,” Zegna said. “Very little needs to be changed. We need a good leader to lead a good team and continue to grow the brand. We couldn’t put somebody in who would revolutionize our strategy. The brand is hot and growing; we just have to improve the execution.”

— Jean E. Palmieri

This story first appeared in the July 19, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.