Byline: Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — Is history repeating itself?
Two years after resigning as chief executive officer of Mossimo Inc. as it sealed its licensing deal with Target Corp., Edwin Lewis has rejoined the firm as vice chairman and president, effective immediately.
He’s charged with inking deals for the Mossimo brand abroad, as well as acquiring other lifestyle brands.
“I have a huge amount of respect for Edwin,” said ceo Mossimo Giannulli. “I maintained a great friendship with him from the moment he left. Now that the situation presents itself for extra help, he was the natural choice.”
Investors appeared to agree, sending shares of the company up 70 cents, or 9.7 percent, to $7.95 in over-the-counter trading Wednesday after briefly lifting them to a new 52-week high of $8.02 earlier in the day.
Lewis, who earlier in his career served as vice chairman of Tommy Hilfiger Corp. and president of Ralph Lauren Women’s Wear, stepped down as Mossimo president and ceo in March 2000, on the same day the company struck an exclusive licensing deal with Target. He originally joined the Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm in December 1998.
As reported, the Mossimo brand has been highly successful at Target, pulling in upward of $700 million last year and adding roughly $15 million in royalties to Mossimo’s once-depleted coffers.
Giannulli said Lewis will pursue mass market opportunities, but not necessarily in apparel or with California lifestyle brands, Mossimo’s niche. The company will continue to operate under its current business model: providing design direction for brands licensed to a retailer.
Giannulli emphatically disputed industry speculation that Lewis’ role would be similar to that of licensing broker Cherokee Group, which set up the Target-Mossimo alliance.
“This is nothing like Cherokee. Zero,” Giannulli said. “Edwin’s role is to develop some new partnerships and some new deals internationally for us. We have a lot of opportunities and I don’t want to be taken away from my focus on Target.”
Jeffrey Klinefelter, retail analyst with U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, said Lewis’ return indicates Mossimo is “clearly very serious about this being a growth business.”
Mossimo is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results next Monday.

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