George P. (Phil) Kelly, a retail executive for over 40 years and a former chief executive for Marshall Field’s, died in Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on April 5 from complications after surgery for a brain abcess. He was 74.
Born in New York City and raised in Providence, R.I., Kelly was a graduate of the Moses Brown School and Amherst College, and received an MBA from Columbia University. He began his retail career at Bloomingdale’s while he was a graduate student at Columbia and worked there for 17 years, ultimately rising to senior vice president.
Over the course of his career, he had also been president and chief executive officer of Marshall Field’s, president and ceo of J.W. Robinson’s, and president and ceo of Garfinckel’s in Washington, D.C. When Marshall Field’s became the target of a hostile takeover, Kelly and business partner Joe Cecil, opened Mallard’s, a chain of men’s specialty stores in Chicago and Detroit. Most recently, Kelly had worked as an international consultant in such far-flung regions as Bangkok and Ecuador. His last job was as president of the privately held Almacenes De Prati retail business headquartered in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he lived most recently. A lifelong art collector, Kelly served on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
“Phil was a total gentleman,” said Marvin Traub, a former chairman of Bloomingdale’s. “He was kind to all and accessible to the younger people in our organization whom he helped train and develop. He was the very model of what a good senior executive could be and I enjoyed working with him.”
Kelly is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marilyn, as well as a brother and sister-in-law, C. Robert and Lynn D. Kelly of Barrington, R.I.
A memorial service is planned for this week in Guayaquil and another is being planned for later this spring in Providence.