Clothier I.C. Isaacs' CEO resigning after 18 years

Move part of plan to shift power to French designers

February 05, 2003|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

The president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board for clothing wholesaler I.C. Isaacs & Co. Inc. is resigning after 18 years with the company.

Robert J. Arnot will end his reign as CEO and president of the Baltimore- and New York-based company tomorrow. He ended his duties as chairman Saturday, when he was replaced by board member Staffan Ahrenberg.

I.C. Isaacs executives said yesterday that the parting is not contentious. It is part of a plan, which Arnot helped negotiate, to slowly move control of the financially troubled company to French designers Marithe and Francois Girbaud.

"The progression with the Girbaud Group is they've made a substantial investment in the company and they are in the process of taking active control of the company," said Gene Wielepski, chief financial officer of I.C. Isaacs.

In May, an investment company owned by the designers increased its stake in I.C. Isaacs to 40 percent, becoming the majority owners. Girbaud now has five of nine board seats, Wielepski said.

I.C. Isaacs sells lines of jeans and sportswear for men and women solely under the Girbaud brand name in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. In recent years, the company has shed costly licensing deals with other clothing brands, such as BOSS and Beverly Hills Polo Club.

It has put most of its focus on importing clothes from overseas rather than manufacturing. The Baltimore office is now used as for administrative purposes, rather than for manufacturing as it once was.

The company has shown a loss for several years, and its shares closed unchanged yesterday at 65 cents. The 52-week high - $2.01 a share - came in September.

The Girbaud takeover is part of a strategy to make the company financially healthy, Wielepski said.

Arnot will continue to be involved with I.C. Isaacs, serving as a consultant until May 2, officials said. He will receive severance payments from May 3 to Dec. 15.

"It has been extremely rewarding to have spent 18 years in various capacities with I.C. Isaacs," Arnot said in a statement. "It has also been satisfying to have spent the last five years working with Marithe and Francois Girbaud. At this stage, my focus will be on making this transition in leadership a successful one."

Company officials declined to comment on when a new CEO and president would be named.

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