WOOLWORTH MAY BE CHIEFLY INTERESTED IN ROGER FARAH
Byline: Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — Woolworth Corp. may be closing in on a new chairman and chief executive office and its top choice appears to be Roger Farah, former president of R.H. Macy & Co.
According to sources, Farah — who was president of Macy’s for only three months before being forced out by the merger agreement between Macy’s and his other former employer, Federated Department Stores — has been exploring several career options, including Woolworth, a key post at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., or possibly a retail acquisition of his own.
“He’s torn,” said one source. “He’s wrestling with the two jobs [Woolworth and Polo]. If Roger is taking time, he’s probably doing a lot of soul searching. That’s why Woolworth is late in announcing its decision.”
Woolworth was expected to reach a final decision around Thanksgiving. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on the deadline or time frame for the search. However, she did say, “The process is moving ahead on plan.” Woolworth is searching for a successor to William Lavin, who resigned as chairman and chief executive officer on Sept. 30.
A member of Woolworth’s board said the list of people under consideration for the ceo post is small. “There are very few candidates,” the board member said.
The two situations — Woolworth and Ralph Lauren — could not be more different.
“From his past experience, he would be more comfortable with Ralph Lauren,” said an executive who has worked with Farah. “Roger grew up in the men’s business at Saks Fifth Avenue, which was one of his early assignments. He also has high profile contacts with retailers.”
As chief executive officer of Woolworth, however, Farah would have more responsibility, while at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. he’d be working for Lauren.
“He would only be interested in doing what Peter Strom is doing,” the source said.
Strom, the 65-year-old vice chairman of Polo, who was instrumental in helping Lauren build his business, was said to be considering retirement. However, in October, he told WWD, “I am absolutely not ready to retire at this time.”
According to sources, Farah would only want to come into the company with an equity stake in the business.
Farah was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Polo executives also could not be reached.
Other reports have placed Farah at Saks Fifth Avenue. His name also continues to surface in connection with Kmart, which is said to be seeking a replacement for its embattled chairman, Joseph Antonini.
Industry analysts said that if Farah turns down the Woolworth pos, the company would consider a retailer with a strong background in the discount store industry, such as Michael Bozic, president and ceo of Hills Department Stores, who spent part of his career at Sears.
Bozic’s name has also been mentioned in connection with the Kmart job, along with Dayton Hudson’s chairman and ceo, Robert Ulrich, who came from Target.