Ira Neimark made a return engagement to Bergdorf Goodman Monday night, signing scores of copies of his just-released fourth book, “Rise of Bergdorf Goodman and the Fall of Bonwit Teller: Triumph and Tragedy on Fifth Avenue,” (GamePlan Press).
He greeted many of his friends and former colleagues, including some who recalled Neimark’s legendary “MBWA” leadership style, which in his words translates as “management by walking around.” As chief executive officer of Bergdorf Goodman, aka “the benevolent dictator,” for 17 years until 1992, Neimark was very hands-on building Bergdorf’s into one of the world’s foremost luxury emporiums.
“Most folks who run organizations merely consume space and time as they pass through and really leave nothing to show for their efforts. But Ira created a luxury department store, the old-fashioned way, though dedication, discipline and a focus on the customer,” said Mark Cohen, a marketing professor at Columbia Business School.
“Ira is a living legend in the world of luxury,” said Joshua Schulman, president of Bergdorf’s. “He’s taken a real interest in getting to know me. He is incredibly quick with sending and responding to e-mails and sending me notes, like when he see something he likes, and when he sees something he doesn’t like.”
Among the crowd were Jeffry Aronsson; Norman Matthews; Isabelle Leeds; Neimark’s wife Jackie and their granddaughter Emily Shattan; John and Pat Rosenwald; Mitchell and Janine Silver, and Dawn Mello.
Asked why he decided to write a fourth book, Neimark said, “When I noticed that I kept the doorknob from Bonwit Teller,” a souvenir for his stint as a doorman there, which was his first job in retail, “I realized again how great of a success Bonwit Teller once was.”