NEW YORK — John Kourakos is leaving as Warnaco Group Inc.’s Sportswear Group president, a role in which he oversees the Calvin Klein jeans and underwear units.

This story first appeared in the November 20, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Kourakos said in a phone interview that he had notified president and chief executive officer Joe Gromek, who was traveling in China on business, of his plans. Kourakos said he had agreed to remain on as a consultant for an unspecified period of time while the company seeks a replacement.

Kourakos was said to have had his eye on the top role at Warnaco, before the company named Gromek to that slot in April.

“I did not get the ceo position, but I think the board made a great decision in Joe,” Kourakos said. Referring to Gromek’s appointment he said, “That’s not playing into the decision.”

Reached for comment in Shanghai, Gromek said, “John’s done a great job for Warnaco. It’s unfortunate at this moment he has to step down. It’s strictly for personal reasons.”

Gromek noted that Kourakos had been appointed an officer of Warnaco at the board meeting last Thursday. “He was very excited about that,” he said.

Gromek suggested that Kourakos take a leave of absence, but Kourakos declined.

“John repositioned the Chaps business and the Calvin Klein underwear business is going really well,” Gromek said. “He’s been in the process of repositioning Calvin jeans for men and women. We’ve seen the business move very positively forward. The timing of this is unfortunate.”

Kourakos rejoined Warnaco in January 2000 as president of its Sportswear Group, having been at the company from 1994 to 1996 as president of Warnaco’s Calvin Klein Underwear and Men’s Accessories units. He left Warnaco to join Tommy Hilfiger, first as president of the Tommy Jeans line and then as president of men’s wear. Earlier in his career, he spent eight years at Calvin Klein Inc.

As reported, for the third quarter ended Oct. 4, Warnaco reported a loss of $6.7 million, compared with a loss of $15.6 million in the same period a year ago, when the predecessor company was still in bankruptcy. Sales in the quarter were down 8.6 percent to $303.1 million.