Byline: Jean E. Palmieri

NEW YORK — William V. Roberti, president and chief executive officer of Brooks Bros., is resigning to “pursue other interests,” the store said Monday.
The move, a surprise to many retail observers, is effective Dec. 1.
Marks & Spencer, the British retailer that purchased Brooks Bros. in 1988, said it is seeking a replacement through the executive search firm of Spencer Stuart & Associates. Christopher Littmoden, director of M&S North America, said the company intends to recruit someone familiar with U.S. retailing.
Roberti did not return telephone calls on Monday.
Roberti joined Brooks Bros. in May 1987 as president and chief operating officer. The next year, when Frank Reilly retired, he succeeded him as ceo.
During his tenure, Roberti blew away a lot of the dust that had accumulated on the venerable specialty store chain. When he joined Brooks Bros., it was criticized as stodgy. Roberti helped bring the store into the Nineties and had a strong voice in the massive renovation of the Madison Avenue flagship.
Roberti was also at the helm when Brooks opened its first outlet stores. Today, there are 33 in the U.S. in addition to the 62 regular-price stores. The company also operates 51 stores in Japan.
Overall, Brooks Bros. has been performing well. In May, it reported a 5.5 percent gain in operating profits to $22.25 million on an 11.7 percent rise in sales to $377.78 million for the 53 weeks ended March 31. About 20 percent of its volume is in women’s merchandise.
Despite the results, M&S chairman Sir Richard Greenbury said then the British company will be satisfied only when Brooks posts a 10 percent return on sales. Last year’s results represented a return of about 5.9 percent.

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