Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — Less than six months after Nautica Enterprises Inc. acquired the hip West Coast jeans maker Earl Jean Inc., Ben Freiwald has stepped down as its president.
His wife, Suzanne Costas Freiwald, who cofounded the company with Ben, will continue as head designer, according to Nautica. Neither Freiwald could be reached for comment.
In a statement on Monday, Nautica named Joe Krafka, Earl’s vice president of sales, to succeed Freiwald. He will continue to be based at Earl’s Los Angeles headquarters and will report to Harvey Sanders, Nautica chairman and chief executive officer.
Nautica also boosted Bonnie Takhar, previously vice president of sales for Earl Jean Europe, to managing director for the same region. She reports to Krafka.
The Freiwalds founded Earl Jean in 1996, and since that time, it has established itself as a key upscale U.S. jeans line. While the brand has cachet with denim enthusiasts, its volume is fairly small — 2000 revenues were $28.9 million — but that was more than double 1999 sales of $13.8 million.
In May, Nautica bought the company for $45 million in cash and 1.1 million shares of Nautica stock. Since acquiring the company, Nautica has indicated that its plans for the brand include building a larger retail network.
True to that strategy, Earl is getting ready to open its second store, in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. The company also operates a unit in Los Angeles.