NEW YORK — Ending months of speculation, Kmart Corp.’s top merchant, Cecil Kearse, is leaving the firm.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

No successor to Kearse, executive vice president of merchandising, has been named at the bankrupt Troy, Mich.-based discounter.

As reported, Roger Goddu, former chief executive of now defunct Montgomery Ward, had been reported to be under consideration as Kmart’s top merchant.

Meanwhile, William Underwood is returning to Kmart to buttress its procurement operations through the newly created position of executive vice president of sourcing and global operations. On an interim basis, Underwood will also take control of Kmart’s entire merchandising function, except for food and consumables.

Underwood, a Kmart veteran who joined in 1962, when the firm went by its original moniker of S.S. Kresge Co., retired in 1999 from the position of senior vice president, global operations, corporate brands and quality assurance. He assumes responsibilities for the firm’s hardline and softline sourcing operations, including product specification, quality assurance and vendor relations, immediately.”

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