Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK — In another example of how designers are out to control their own images, Polo Ralph Lauren said Thursday it will purchase the Polo Ralph Lauren Beverly Hills store currently owned and operated by Jerry Magnin.
Polo Ralph Lauren will assume full ownership of the store this summer. A Ralph Lauren spokeswoman said she did not know if the store would be remodeled or whether there would be a disruption in service during the change in ownership.
“The store is a flagship for Ralph, and it’s one he should have absolute control over,” Magnin said.
The Beverly Hills flagship, at 323 North Rodeo Drive, dated back to 1971 and became the first freestanding Polo Ralph Lauren store. It moved to its present location — a 14,000-square-foot, two-level building at 444 North Rodeo Drive — in 1987.
Magnin’s great-grandmother, Mary Ann Magnin, founded the I. Magnin chain in 1876. He tried unsuccessfully to buy the I. Magnin Beverly Hills flagship in 1994 when R.H. Macy and its parent, Federated Department Stores, said they would liquidate the chain.
With retailers such as Fred Hayman, Magnin was a founding member of the Rodeo Drive Committee.
“The legacy Jerry Magnin has established in that market has been an important foundation to our business,” said Ralph Lauren. “He helped me realize a dream 27 years ago when the Polo Store concept was developed.”
Over the years, as his empire has grown, Lauren has continued to bring various aspects of his business in-house.
David Hare, an architect of Ralph Lauren’s retail expansion, resigned last September as group president of Polo Ralph Lauren Stores. As one of three joint venture partners with Lauren, Hare owned and operated a number of Polo Ralph Lauren units with the designer. He became an officer of Polo Ralph Lauren when it went public on June 12, 1997. Just prior to that, the company bought back the group’s 50 percent interest.
Polo Ralph Lauren currently operates 43 stores in the U.S. and 76 units overseas.
“A lot of the large designer companies are very concerned about their image, and many are buying back franchises so they become corporate-owned stores,” Ron Michaels, president of the Rodeo Drive Committee and general manager of the Louis Vuitton flagship in Beverly Hills, said. “They just want to standardize everything. I wasn’t surprised to hear that they were buying it back. I’ve seen that happen even within my own company. I was actually a partner in my store with Louis Vuitton, and they bought it back.”
The trend has been building. The franchised Gianni Versace boutique at 437 North Rodeo Drive, operated by Carolyn Mahboudi, closed last month. The designer company has “big plans” to open a Versace-owned store in another prime retail location within the area soon, a spokesman said. Symphony One sold its franchise back to Hugo Boss earlier this year.
“The only franchise I can think of that’s left is Fendi, which is owned by Via Condotti of Bal Harbour,” said one retail expert.

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