Karen Murray’s experience juggling large brands with many moving parts was the primary appeal for William Sweedler, chairman of Sequential Brands Group Inc.
On Wednesday, Sweedler named Murray chief executive officer of Sequential, a brand-licensing company that counts Martha Stewart, Jessica Simpson, William Rast and Ellen Tracy as among its assets — brands that together have “a retail footprint in excess of $4 billion,” he said.
“Not only would I characterize Karen as an exceptional leader,” Sweedler added, “but she has the benefit of experience and the knowledge of running multiple operating companies.” He said she’s also a top-notch merchant who understands “the challenges and struggles of retail and our wholesale partners — critical attributes that our board determined were needed.”
Murray, who most recently served as president of VF Sportswear Corp. where she oversaw Nautica, a $1.2 billion global brand, as well as Kipling, succeeds Yehuda Shmidman, who is stepping down from his post and as a member of the board of directors.
Sweedler said that although he recruited Shmidman to Sequential in 2012, the company has grown to a place where it needed to make a change. “Yehuda was fantastic in the early growth of this business, but we need a leader with a different skill set than he provided in the first four or five years here.”
So when he realized Murray was available and “willing to discuss opportunities,” he made a call.
Murray said at Nautica, she was responsible for overseeing licenses that account for “close to a half-billion dollars in sales so I know many of the partners.” And getting out from under the recurring wholesale issues of dealing with inventories and receivables was also appealing.
“I’m so excited about the power of these brands and growing these businesses,” she said. Among her priorities will be expanding their digital presence, moving into additional categories and exploring international expansion while working to create a strong culture internally within the Sequential team.
She said while Martha Stewart and Jessica Simpson are the largest brands in the Sequential portfolio, she sees “untapped potential with the others,” particularly those in the home, active and fashion categories.
Murray joined VF Sportswear in 2007 as president of its Nautica Men’s Sportswear and Nautica Jeans Co. businesses and the following year was named president of VF Sportswear. She started her career at Gant, where she worked nine years before moving to Liz Claiborne Inc., where she held numerous roles, including president from 1998 to 2007.
She starts her new position at Sequential officially on April 3.