NEW YORK — Saks Inc. has promoted Kevin Wills to executive vice president of finance and chief accounting officer, reporting to R. Brad Martin, chairman and chief executive officer, and the audit committee of the board of directors.

It’s a key appointment, particularly in light of last week’s wave of forced departures at Saks Inc. and the Saks Fifth Avenue division stemming from investigations into improper collections of vendor allowances and accounting practices. The Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Saks itself have been conducting probes.

Wills succeeds Donald Wright, the former chief accounting officer, who was among those asked to resign. Others forced out were Donald Watros, the chief administrative officer of the Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises, and Brian Martin, a senior vice president and brother of R. Brad Martin.

Last week, eight merchants working in the bridge department of SFA were also let go, according to several sources at vendors and retailers in New York. Key bridge vendors at Saks include DKNY, Ellen Tracy, Anne Klein, Theory and Elie Tahari.

Others at SFAE and Saks Inc. are receiving disciplinary action, including R. Brad Martin and Saks Inc.’s chief financial officer, Douglas Coltharp, both of whose bonuses are being either reduced or eliminated. In addition, Coltharp no longer will have responsibility for accounting or financial reporting but will continue to supervise treasury, strategic planning, external development and real estate.

Wills, a certified public accountant, joined the company in 1997 as vice president of financial reporting, rose to senior vice president of strategic planning in 1998, and then to senior vice president of planning and administration for the Saks department store group in 1999. In 2003, Wills was promoted to his most recent post of executive vice president of operations for Parisian, where he oversaw the financial operations, store operations, human resources and merchandise planning functions of that $700 million division.

Prior to joining Saks Inc., Wills was vice president and controller for the Tennessee Valley Authority and an audit manager with Coopers & Lybrand.

This story first appeared in the May 17, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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