According to sources, the company is in discussions with Arnold Simon’s Aris Industries about a jeans deal for designer Daryl Kerrigan, whose Daryl K collection business was suspended in April. It would be a first step in attempts by Pegasus to recoup some of the ill-fated investments it made in fashion brands over the past two years.
As part of its latest corporate shuffle, Susan Sokol, who was promoted to chairwoman and chief executive officer of Leiber Group since the company was restructured in April, confirmed on Friday that her role has been reduced to that of consultant.
Rodney Cohen, a fund manager from the Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity fund that provided the seed money and continues to back the Leiber Group, has taken over the corporate oversight of its assets, according to executives familiar with its operations. Its two remaining divisions, Judith Leiber and Klein’s, will continue to operate under their current management, Sokol said.
Pegasus has veered sharply from its original course, charted two years ago, when the fund was hoping to develop an American fashion conglomerate by buying companies like Pamela Dennis, Angela Amiri, Daryl K, Miguel Adrover, Leiber and Klein’s at a rapid-fire pace. A combination of overly ambitious acquisitions and the relative lack of infrastructure among those brands led to a dramatic turn of fortunes: Daryl K and Adrover have since closed; Dennis has split with her own company, now licensed to a bridge manufacturer; Amiri broke her deal and started another line; and Stephen L. Ruzow, who founded Pegasus Apparel Group and was ceo, left to join Kellwood Co. as president of women’s wear.
But the fund still owns Leiber and Klein’s, plus some of the other trademarks. With just those two divisions remaining as active businesses, Sokol said it didn’t make sense to continue as ceo. She plans to look for other consulting opportunities within the industry.
“I am still very much available to the Leiber Group and working with them on various strategic options,” Sokol said. “But since the group is now two companies, I have decided to remain on as a strategic adviser.”
Victor Lipko, president and ceo of Judith Leiber, said he didn’t expect the changes to have any impact on the Leiber brand. Since it has been the group’s best- performing and largest division, with an estimated $30 million in sales, Pegasus changed the name of the conglomerate to Leiber Group after its first restructuring this year.
“It doesn’t mean anything for us,” Lipko said. “I’ve always had an involvement with the managers at the financial group, so for me, it’s no different. Pegasus coming in and acquiring us gave us the ability to do things that we couldn’t do before with our products.”
Leiber is going ahead with product launches for licensed footwear and eyewear next year, and Lipko said he also is increasing its advertising investments in Hong Kong and Tokyo to promote the brand in Asia. That market has become increasingly important for the accessories firm since Isetan and Lane Crawford have had successful retail introductions of Leiber products.
Meanwhile, the changes at the corporate level indicate that Pegasus is looking to maximize the sizable investment it has made in fashion brands since the fund was created. One obvious way to build revenue is through additional licenses, and Daryl K is considered to be a brand that still has viable prospects.
Its wholesale operations were cut after designer Daryl Kerrigan’s fall 2001 collection was panned by stores and editors. Leiber executives said at the time they were searching for a production partner that could pick up the reins, but a deal has yet to be determined.
The latest possible suitor for Kerrigan’s edgy streetwear sensibility appears to be Aris Industries, which is said to be interested in developing a jeans line under the Daryl K label. Simon, ceo of Aris, did not return calls on Friday.
Aris was restructured in March into a licensing-oriented firm in an alliance with a large Mexican conglomerate, Grupo Xtra. The deal gave Grupo the rights to manufacture, market and distribute some of Aris’s collections, like XOXO, Fragile and Baby Phat apparel.