BERLIN — The Heinz Krogner era at Esprit is drawing to a close.

This story first appeared in the November 3, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As planned, Ronald Van der Vis has assumed the position of group chief executive officer of Esprit Holdings Ltd. He succeeds Krogner, 67, who will stay on as executive chairman of the lifestyle brand.

Van der Vis, the former ceo of the optical retailer Pearle Europe, has been executive director of Esprit since joining the company in April. At that time, Esprit said Van der Vis would assume the group ceo position by Nov. 1 at the latest.

Krogner, who took over Esprit’s European operation in 1995, grew the then-struggling American sportswear brand into a global powerhouse. Since acquiring the American rights for the brand in 2003, the Hong Kong-based Esprit Holdings Ltd. has increased sales almost 250 percent and operating profits almost 350 percent.

However, the company has not remained unscathed by the economic slowdown. Preliminary figures for the first nine months of 2009 showed sales contracting 8 percent to $9.37 billion Hong Kong, or $1.21 billion at average exchange rates for the period. Retail comp store sales slipped 3.5 percent.

Indeed, it was global economic conditions that prompted Krogner’s decision last April to stay on as executive chairman through 2010, one year longer than his original plan.

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