Bankruptcy

Liz Claiborne Makeover Draws a CFO from GE

Andrew Warren, onetime CFO of GE's NBC Universal, arrives while the apparel maker seeks to freshen up its branding and profits.
Stephen TaubJune 21, 2007

Liz Claiborne Inc.’s selection of General Electric Co. veteran Andrew C. Warren as Claiborne’s CFO comes amid a crucial management and business reorganization aimed at putting a fresher face on the women’s retailer.

At GE, Warren served in various finance positions, most recently as senior operations leader for the GE audit staff, where he helped lead the divestiture of GE’s Plastics division. He also had been executive vice president and CFO for GE’s NBC Universal Television Group.

“He is a tremendous addition to our team and brings a deep background in finance and administration,” said Claiborne CEO William L. McComb. “We were especially impressed by Andy’s contributions to that non-industrial, highly creative business.”

Warren replaces Michael Scarpa, who in late January was promoted to chief operating officer.

Under the planned restructuring, Liz Claiborne will create two divisions: Direct Brands, its retail business, and Partnered Brands, its wholesale business. The company said that the reorganization reflects differing skills, capabilities, investment criteria, and financial structure required by these two distinct businesses, and added that it will discuss the strategy more fully next month.

Liz Claiborne has been struggling recently due to a squeeze on moderate apparel brands, falling demand for its traditional upscale brands, and consolidating department stores that increasingly promote their own private brands.

The company lately has added small, younger brands, but has seen its older lines suffer, resulting in lower earnings of late. In announcing a weak full-year outlook last month, CEO McComb said the company was looking to “radically address” its cost structure.

“This is a crucial step in remaking Liz Claiborne Inc. into a more brand- focused and cost-effective business that can successfully navigate a rapidly changing retail environment,” McComb said of the changes today.

President Trudy Sullivan added that Direct Brands will benefit from enhanced retail infrastructure and capabilities, while Partnered Brands will be better positioned to meet the needs of specific customers.”While there are clearly overlapping channel dynamics, we want to manage these businesses as two distinct divisions and report on their performance with a set of metrics that is more appropriate to these different business models,” Sullivan added.

Under the management realignment, five group president positions will be eliminated.