DISSATISFIED MARVIN GRALNICK RETURNS TO RUN CHICO’S FAS

Byline: Mark Tosh

NEW YORK — In a management shakeup, Marvin J. Gralnick returned Friday as the full-time head of Chico’s FAS, the sportswear chain he founded with his wife, Helene, 11 years ago.
Jeffrey Zwick resigned as president, chief executive officer and a director of the company and agreed to sell his shares in the company to the Gralnicks for $3 million. Additionally, Chico’s, which is based in Fort Myers, Fla., said Heidi Thorner, vice president-merchandise planning and design, was let go.
Gralnick, Chico’s chairman, said he and his wife have not been active in the day-to-day operations for “a little over a year.” He said the couple’s decision to take a more active role stems from “dissatisfaction” with the company’s direction over the last six to eight months.
Gralnick said he wants Chico’s to “refocus on what made the company unique,” which, he said, is casual cotton clothing that can be worn anywhere. Chico’s retails exclusively private label, and the Gralnicks will again be responsible for the line’s design.
Zwick said Friday he and the co-founders had “a different philosophy” about running Chico’s, which went public in 1993.
“There’s a difference in how you run a public and a private company,” Zwick said.
As a result of Zwick’s departure, Chico’s named Barry E. Szumlanski, the company’s chief operating officer, as its interim president. A search for a new president and ceo has begun. Michal Szumlanski, senior vice president, assumes the added responsibilities of working as a liaison between the stores and the Gralnicks.
Peter Schaeffer, a securities analyst at Dillon Read, said he was “very encouraged” by the Gralnicks’ return to Chico’s and, as a result, he upgraded the company’s stock Friday to “outperform” from “hold.”

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