Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Paul Harris, which has been expanding, but with declining earnings, said Tuesday that Charlotte Fischer, chairman, president and chief executive officer, left the company “to pursue other interests.”
Asked if she was fired, a Paul Harris spokesman said, “No. Absolutely not.”
The company said it reached a settlement on Fischer’s contract that will result in a one-time, first-quarter charge of 18 cents a share.
The company also said that Glenn Lyon was named president and general merchandise manager, and that the board will search for a new ceo. Sally Tassani, executive vice president, and Keith Himmel Jr., vice president of finance and controller, will also manage the company.
Lyon was president of the Modern Woman division of Charming Shoppes.
In addition, Gerald Paul, a founder of the company and its former chairman and ceo, has been hired as a consultant on an interim basis. Paul retired from the chain in 1995.
Fischer, among the handful of women to have reached the top rungs of large retail operations, has been running Paul Harris since February 1995 and orchestrated a string of growth maneuvers, including purchasing the then-bankrupt J. Peterman retail and catalog business. Peterman became a well-known brand after being parodied on Seinfeld, but some market observers felt that its rarefied offerings and limited growth made it an unlikely fit for the more moderately priced, private-label and casually oriented Paul Harris.
The company reported net income for the fourth quarter of 1999 of $4.2 million, or $0.38 a diluted share, a decline from the $4.8 million, or $0.43, of the 1998 period. Income for the year was $3.2 million, or $0.30, compared with $8.6 million, or $0.75, the year before.
Last year, the 319-unit chain opened 21 stores, including its first two flagships, in Indianapolis, where the company is based, and Chicago. In 1998, the chain opened 50 stores.
The company also redesigned marketing materials, installed a new merchandise management system, expanded its assortments to include petites and hosiery, and enhanced its offerings in denim and other categories. The company also operates 10 J. Peterman stores. Last year it consolidated the Peterman operations to the Indianapolis facility and launched a J. Peterman e-commerce auction site.
Before joining Paul Harris, Fischer ran a retail consultancy and opened a specialty gift shop, and from 1986 to 1991, she was president and ceo of Claire’s Stores.

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