LONDON — LionRock Capital is preparing to write a new chapter for the troubled British footwear brand Clarks, naming a new chief executive officer with years of experience at high-street giants Zara and Guess.
On Monday, LionRock said it completed its purchase of a majority stake in Clarks for an investment of 100 million pounds. The deal was revealed last November.
Victor Herrero take up the role of executive chairman and chief executive officer, succeeding Giorgio Presca, who is stepping down to pursue other opportunities. The board thanked Presca “for his much-valued contribution to Clarks over the last two years.”
Herrero is a fast-fashion and high-street veteran, having served as CEO and director of Guess Inc. between 2015 and 2019. Prior to that, he spent more than 12 years at Zara parent Inditex, holding several senior roles, most recently as head of Asia Pacific and managing director of China.
He said he was eager to take Clarks “to its next level and partner with LionRock Capital and the Clark family to build a strong and sustainable future for this iconic and much-loved global brand.”
Herrero is also the chairman of Bossini, non-executive director of Viva China Holdings Ltd. and, up to now, has been a non-executive director of Clarks. As reported, some analysts considered him to be a seasoned manager who brought a level of discipline to Guess. He implemented expense controls such as negotiating with suppliers and landlords, and brought a new level of sourcing expertise to the table.
Daniel Tseung, founder and managing director of LionRock Capital, said the company was pleased to formalize its relationship with Clarks, “one of the world’s most recognized consumer names. We look forward to working with the Clark family and Clarks’ leadership team to build on its tradition of providing customers around the world with top quality products and exceptional service.”
Li Ning, non-executive chairman of LionRock Capital, said the firm was partnering with Clarks in a “momentous new phase for the business. We look forward to leveraging our network and experience to support Clarks through the next phase of development.”
As reported in November, the deal with LionRock marked the end of Clark family ownership of the brand after 195 years. The Clark family remains a “significant” shareholder in the business, according to company principals.
When the sale was first announced, Clarks chief financial officer Philip de Klerk said the investment from LionRock Capital and the restructuring of Clarks’ retail footprint “…will provide funding for the company’s seasonal working capital needs and its transformation strategy.”
Last May, Clarks laid out the latest details of a turnaround plan, which included significant job cuts, plus a focus on sustainability and digital growth as part of its “Made to Last” strategy.
Like many other British retail brands hit by COVID-19 lockdowns worldwide, Clarks made 160 redundancies across its global offices, including 108 in its headquarters in Somerset, England.
The brand had been struggling with short-term liquidity needs due to the widespread closure of its brick-and-mortar stores in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Up to 700 more positions were set to be eliminated between 2020 and 2021. Last May, Clarks said it planned to add 200 different positions over the next year and a half.