CJ Apparel Group chief executive officer Jeffry Levy is stepping down after helping to return the moderate Caribbean Joe brand to profitability in the two years since Hilco Consumer Capital LLC acquired the New York-based business.

This story first appeared in the November 19, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Levy helped broker the January 2007 deal, committing to lead the firm during the turnaround. He will remain until a successor is found, likely by the end of the year, said Jamie Salter, Hilco ceo. He said the company is already in talks with an unidentified candidate.

“My intention was not to stay and run the company, but rather to broker the next deal,” Levy said.

After departing, Levy will consult part time for Fashionology Group LLC and Brand Matter LLC, which Hilco formed with other investment groups to run Caribbean Joe and Ellen Tracy, helping scout potential acquisitions and fill leadership roles. This is similar to what Levy was doing for about a year before joining Caribbean Joe, when he headed Levy Merchandising Group, a New York apparel consulting firm.

“Jeff is great at that — he helped us find Mark [Mendelson, president of Ellen Tracy],” said Salter, adding that he is in negotiations for a $50 million moderate sportswear brand. “I’m a value shopper, and this is when we do well.”

Levy spent the bulk of his career at Kellwood Co., where he was president of two separate divisions, and worked at Jones Apparel Group Inc. for 13 years, including as president of the Rena Rowan division.

During his almost two years at Caribbean Joe, Levy streamlined the business, turning it from a money-losing company doing about $200 million in wholesale volume to a business with about $120 million in sales that is “extremely profitable, even this year,” Salter said. The company closed much of its unprofitable private label business, cut almost 100 jobs to lower overhead, streamlined its sourcing, consolidated its back office, updated designs and raised its marketing spend.

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