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Zale Seeks Diamond in the Rough for CFO

And it's very rough. After seeking Rodney Carter's resignation, the company begins search for "aggressive, innovative" chief to "help drive efficie...
Kate PlourdJanuary 21, 2009

Zale Corp., after asking CFO Rodney Carter to resign, began a search for what it said would be an aggressive new finance chief with skills suited to the tough economic climate for jewelry retailers like itself.

The announcement of the 51-year-old Carter’s resignation came two weeks after Zale reported dismal holiday sales. Carter came to Zale in 2006 from PETCO Animal Supplies Inc., where he also served as CFO.

The Irving, Texas-based company said that controller Cindy Gordon has been named interim CFO while the company conducts an internal and external search for a permanent replacement. Gordon, who joined Zale in 1994, will also continue to serve as controller, a position she has held since February 2003. Previously she had been vice president of corporate planning and senior director of investor relations.

“We are very fortunate to have someone of Cindy’s caliber and experience to serve as our interim chief financial officer,” Zale CEO Neal Goldberg said in a statement. The statement added, “We want to thank Rodney for all his contributions, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Asked for comment about Carter’s resignation, David Sternblitz, the company’s vice president and treasurer, told CFO.com that the board and management had sought the change. He said Zale’s board was looking for a CFO with a different skill set to help manage it through these difficult economic times. “In this type of an environment the potential candidate would be someone who’s aggressive — someone who’s innovative and a contributor across the entire company, and who would help drive some of the efficiencies and opportunities that we see.”

Attempts by CFO.com to reach Carter, who before serving as PETCO CFO had also served as CFO for CEC Entertainment and J.C. Penney Credit, were unsuccessful.

Earlier this month Zale reported that same-store sales for the November and December had plunged 19.6 percent and 22 percent respectively. Revenue in the two month period fell 19.5 percent year-to-year, to $582 million from $723 million. CEO Goldberg said that the macroeconomic situation made this year’s holiday season “the most difficult in memory.”

The jewelry industry overall has been hit hard in recent months, as sales of luxury goods in general fell by a third during the holiday season. Privately-held jewelery retailer Shane Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 12.

Zale’s stock price has plummeted from $15.69 in January 2008 to less than three dollars this week.

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