Ron Frasch has joined private equity firm Castanea Partners as an operating partner.

This story first appeared in the February 4, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In his new role, Frasch will help Brian Knez and Rob Smith, the founders of the Newton, Mass.-based firm, identify new investment opportunities. Frasch’s focus will be on the luxury space, which includes apparel, accessories, footwear and jewelry.

“Ron is a world-class merchant and a talented and experienced business executive. This is a rare skill set, and we’re very excited to add Ron to the Castanea team. As a firm, we are focused on bringing unique operating experience and insight to our portfolio companies, and Ron’s extensive knowledge and network in luxury goods and services will add significant value to our existing portfolio and help us identify exciting new opportunities for investment,” Knez said.

Prior to joining Castanea, Frasch was president and chief merchandising officer at Saks Fifth Avenue until its sale to Hudson’s Bay Co. last year. Frasch was also chief executive officer and president at Bergdorf Goodman, and he also has held senior positions at GFT USA, Escada USA and Neiman Marcus.

Frasch said he doesn’t define luxury by price, but “more broadly by the vision of the founders and the nature of the relationship between the customer and product or service. I look forward to collaborating with creative entrepreneurs and management teams to build successful businesses with Castanea Partners.”

Castanea was founded in 2001. Prior fashion and retail investments include Neiman Marcus Group, Betsey Johnson, Hanna Andersson and Urban Decay. Current investments in the sector include Donald J Pliner and Ippolita.

In October, Castanea was honored by Private Equity International with its Operational Excellence Award in the lower middle market category for its work with Urban Decay, which was sold to L’Oréal in December 2012. During its ownership of Urban Decay from March 2009 to December 2012, Castanea helped the beauty brand increase profits sixfold, while its e-commerce business grew 153 percent.

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