NEW YORK — Jackwyn Nemerov, the former president and chief operating officer of Jones Apparel Group, has been hired by Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. as executive vice president.

Nemerov, 53, is still involved in an arbitration battle with Jones for allegedly violating her non-compete agreement after she left the company in March 2002. Her non-compete clause with Jones expired June 30.

“We’ve understood her contractual issues and honored them,” said Roger Farah, president and chief operating officer of Polo. “It ran out in June, and she’s ready to get back to work.”

After Jones lost the lucrative Lauren by Ralph Lauren license last year, it filed a $550 million breach of contract lawsuit against Polo and Nemerov, seeking millions for lost profits from sales and punitive damages and alleging that Polo had been “conspiring” with Nemerov, in “clear violation of the confidentiality and non-compete provisions of her agreement with Jones.” Polo countered with its own lawsuit against Jones. A judge dismissed Jones’ claims against Nemerov, and the case went to arbitration instead pursuant to a provision in her contract, where it is still pending. The lawsuit between Jones and Polo is pending in a Manhattan state court.

At Polo, Nemerov in her new position will be responsible for the management of all women’s, men’s and children’s wholesale brands, licensed apparel and accessories and manufacturing. She will report to Farah.

“We’re very excited,” said Farah on Wednesday. “I’ve known Jacki when I [as a retailer] used to buy merchandise from her, and I have enormous respect for her talents as a merchant and brand builder and her tremendous sense of product.”

As Polo has expanded its business internationally and taken both the Lauren and children’s wear businesses in-house, Farah said there was a need for someone with Nemerov’s abilities. He said the company has been transformed from one wholesale business with a lot of licenses “to a global business with a lot of pieces and parts between U.S., Asia and Europe.”

Nemerov, who begins today, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Nemerov left Jones in March 2002, having served as president and chief operating officer, where she was responsible for the design, merchandising and production for the company’s then 23 corporate brands. She parted ways with Jones when Peter Boneparth was named president of the firm and was tapped to succeed Sidney Kimmel at chief executive officer. During her 17-year tenure there, Nemerov held a variety of executive posts, including president of Jones Sport Division, and in 1995 launched the Lauren by Ralph Lauren division when it was a licensed brand. At that time, she worked closely with Ralph Lauren, chairman and ceo of Polo, in developing that business. Earlier in her career, she was with Allied Stores, Bernard Chaus and Gloria Vanderbilt for Murjani.

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Farah has continuously denied that Nemerov was involved in helping Polo establish its Lauren business in-house last year. The Lauren business was “internally generated by the team we built, and Jacki had no role in that,” he said on Wednesday.

As for the Jones versus Polo lawsuit, a state court judge in March denied Polo’s request to dismiss claims against it by Jones in connection with the termination of the Lauren license. According to a legal source familiar with the proceedings, Polo intends to file an appeal of the ruling by mid-October so that the matter can be heard by the appellate court in December. The Jones lawsuit is on hold pending the appellate court’s ruling on the appeal. Assuming Polo loses its appeal, a trial on the Jones lawsuit probably won’t take place until 2006.

— With contributions from Vicki M. Young