LEGAR BACKER SAID EYEING PULLOUT

PARIS—Herve Leger’s backing may be unraveling.Sources here say Leger’s financial partner, the Paris-based Seagram Global Brands Division (SGBD) of Seagram, is withdrawing its 50 percent stake in the fashion house.“There has been a lot of noise in the market because Seagram is in the course of separating from a lot of companies,” Leger president Henry Berghauer told WWD Monday. “But as far as Herve Leger is concerned, I have no official comment.”Executives at SGBD could not be reached Monday evening. A Seagram’s spokeswoman in New York said the company does not comment on speculative reports.Leger was originally scheduled to introduce his first signature scent with Proctor & Gamble last spring. That was then pushed back to this fall, and now executives are not putting a date on the launch.The delay, Berghauer said, has nothing to do with the rumors over the company’s financing but with reasons related to distribution and promotion. The perfume is still being developed, he noted.SGBD bought its 50 percent stake back in 1992, when Leger was doing only made-to-measure dresses. The house launched luxury ready-to-wear in 1994, a move that would not have been possible without the financial support of Seagram, Leger once said.“I wasn’t looking for money simply to make a fashion collection,” Leger told WWD in 1995. “I wanted a long-term business partner to push this house forward. One thing Karl Lagerfeld once told me was never to do this business with your own money.”The last several years have been far from stable for Leger, with a revolving door for some top executives.Until early 1995, Leger was the president of his own company, while Jocelyne Coudroy, his sister, managed sales. Then, Richard Hanckowiak, a former president of Guy Laroche, became president of Leger, only to leave the company a few months later over strategy disagreements. Later that year, Judith Monson came to run Leger. She was formerly a senior vice president of finance for SGBD.Monson left the company after roughly two years and longtime fashion executive and industry consultant Berghauer was named managing director in January 1997.

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