Byline: Leonard McCants

NEW YORK — After nearly 30 years, John J. Pomerantz relinquished his title of chief executive officer of The Leslie Fay Co. on Monday, handing it over to the firm’s president, John Ward.
Pomerantz, who has held the ceo title since 1971, will remain chairman of the dress and sportswear company his father, Fred, founded in 1947. Ward, taking over as ceo, will oversee Leslie Fay’s day-to-day operations.
Pomerantz, who is 66, said he will be taking on more of a strategic role by focusing on further acquisitions and building the marketing team. He will be responsible for Leslie Fay’s sales operations and its business development and strategy.
“We’re passing the reins to someone else,” Pomerantz said. “I’m not going out to pasture. This is what I do now, but I’ll now have more time to do it.”
Ward, 46, has been with Leslie Fay since 1989 and has been president since 1997. Prior to joining Leslie Fay, he held executive positions at Filene’s and B. Altman.
“It was a very natural progression,” Ward said. “I think with the portfolio of brands we have now, it’s my job to take them to the next level. There’s plenty of room for growth in virtually every brand we own.”
Pomerantz, who added the duties of chairman in 1986, said that despite his 45-year tenure with the company, he is in negotiations to extend his contract for several more years.
“Besides,” he said, “everyone tells me that when you retire your golf game does not improve.”
Pomerantz said “this was a good time” to shift the leadership of Leslie Fay to Ward, noting they have worked together for 10 years, including the company’s darker times. Leslie Fay emerged from bankruptcy protection in 1997 and has grown quickly, with two key acquisitions — The Warren Group and Cynthia Steffe — in the past three years and the recently secured Liz Claiborne license.
Ward said Pomerantz “has led us through some difficult and challenging times, and as a result of his leadership the company is positioned to take advantage of a number of opportunities that will further its growth.”
Leslie Fay’s product now includes its signature moderate label, plus Leslie Fay Haberdashery, Joan Leslie and Reggio in the moderate arena and David Warren, Rimini by Shaw, Outlander Sportswear and Hue in better. The company also has a license for Liz Claiborne and Elisabeth dresses labels.