The silhouette is not the only thing shrinking at Thom Browne.
This story first appeared in the May 4, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The high-end men’s wear label has parted ways with its chief executive officer and chief financial officer, WWD has learned.
The departures of Tom Becker, ceo, and Thomas Cunningham, cfo, happened last week, according to sources.
Speaking on behalf of Browne, Miki Higasa confirmed the departures and said Becker and Cunningham “decided to leave” the company on their own. “It was exactly two years ago that they were brought in, and they contributed a lot to Thom’s company,” she told WWD. “But he [Thom Browne] had been thinking a lot about restructuring, and they decided it was time to leave to pursue other interests.”
As a result of their departures, the 10-person company is back to being run by Browne, Higasa said. Although that may change in the future, no decisions have been made. “He’s still in the thinking stage,” she said.
In March, the designer rebutted speculation he was having cash-flow problems and was considering bankruptcy, saying, “Thom Browne Inc. is not having a cash-flow problem and has no intention to file for bankruptcy.” Higasa said that remains the case today. Browne’s eponymous line is still being produced, his TriBeCa retail store remains open and his design collaborations with Brooks Brothers for Black Fleece and with Moncler are moving forward. “He just got back from doing fittings at Moncler,” she said, “and he’s at Brooks Brothers several times a week.” She also pointed out that Brooks’ Black Fleece store in Greenwich Village is meeting plan. “It’s been a great couple of years for Thom,” she said.
Higasa also reiterated that Browne is “still in pursuit of the right investor partner. And if he finds one, then the person running the company would be different.”
For the past three years, Browne has been searching for a financial partner to inject funds into the company so it can grow. He is unwilling, however, to sell a majority stake. “He wants to grow the company but not compromise either,” she said.
He has had “many discussions” with potential suitors, she said, including New York-based Individualized Apparel Group. But no deal has been struck. Higasa said IAG is “still a production partner but not a financial partner.”
According to one observer, the scale-back is a wise move in this economy. “This shows signs that he’s running and operating his business in a more responsible manner. It didn’t make sense for a company that size to have two senior positions. These days, cutbacks are the normal course of business.”
Thom Browne Inc., which is best known for its suits with shrunken proportions, is believed to have $5 million in annual sales.
Becker and Cunningham came on board in 2007 to help the designer manage the growth of his business and free him to focus on design. Prior to this, Becker had been at J.P. Morgan Chase as vice-president and senior strategy manager with the treasury services and new business development group. Cunningham had been a lender in the commercial loan division of Union State Bank. Before that, he had founded and operated a better men’s line called Sacque Suit.