SAKS CONFIRMS HUNT FOR PRESIDENT

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — “We are in search mode for a president,” Philip B. Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, declared Monday.
Citing issues of “long-term governance and corporate responsibility,” Miller confirmed reports published here that Saks is searching for a successor to former president Rose Marie Bravo.
“I would hope to name a successor within a month,” Miller said.
That disclosure marks a reversal of the stance Saks struck following Bravo’s resignation on Sept. 4, when she left to become ceo of Burberrys Worldwide.
Saks then said it would not name a successor, but that Miller would immediately step in to play a larger role in marketing and merchandising. The store then elevated Sheri Wilson-Gray and Stephen Bock, two senior vice presidents in those areas, to executive vice presidents. Bock is leaving to join DFS Group (see story, page 3).
On Monday, however, Miller said that a formal search for a president and chief merchant had gotten under way earlier this month.
“One of the primary duties will be the merchandising and marketing role,” he noted.
Although he declined to name any executives on Saks’ wish list, Miller said, “We know pretty well who the candidates in this sector of the business are.” He did not reveal whether Saks has narrowed its field of candidates, saying only that “it’s a normal due diligence process.”
“We’ve obviously had lengthy discussions with Herbert Mines & Associates, the firm doing our search,” he added.
One of the people who might be in the running, as reported, is Andrea Jung, executive vice president and president of global marketing and new businesses at Avon Products Inc. Jung, who is married to Michael Gould, chairman and ceo of Bloomingdale’s, was once executive vice president of women’s at Neiman Marcus and once worked at I. Magnin, now defunct.
In the meantime, Miller has been filling in as planned.
“I had been running around Europe for two solid weeks this month to see the runway collections and visit our resources,” he said. “Everyone has very much stepped up on our competent merchant team.”
One of Bravo’s many accomplishments at Saks was positioning it as a major fragrance launch store. Some of its more flamboyant introductions in cosmetics were Casmir, L’Eau d’Issey and Gio by Giorgio Armani. In fashion, Saks has staked a claim for various high-profile bridge launches, including Isaac by Isaac Mizrahi and Bill Blass USA. Saks launched Jil Sander’s new fragrance, Jil, at 50 doors on Sept. 17, and is selling it exclusively for about four months, before it rolls out to Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman’s.

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