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Ralph Lauren CEO shakes up management in growth push

[NEW YORK] Ralph Lauren Corp chief executive officer Stefan Larsson, who took the helm in November, is shaking up management ranks amid efforts to restore growth to the preppy-apparel company.

As part of the changes, Valerie Hermann will be promoted to the expanded role of global brand president for luxury, women's collections and accessories, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg. Multiple executives also will be leaving Ralph Lauren around mid-May as Mr Larsson puts his imprint on the business.

Mr Larsson, who previously ran Gap Inc's Old Navy chain, is looking for ways to reignite sales at a company hurt by sluggish traffic at malls and department stores. The strong US dollar also has eroded Ralph Lauren's foreign revenue.

The clothier cut its annual forecast in February, saying sales would be up only about one per cent this year, excluding currency changes. Ralph Lauren also is working on a reorganization effort that should cut US$110 million in annual costs by the end of fiscal 2017.

Ms Hermann, who was previously president of luxury collections, will be taking the new job immediately, according to the memo. She'll be overseeing all luxury brands, with the addition of Women's Polo, Lauren, Chaps, Denim & Supply, and all men's and women's footwear, accessories and denim. Ms Hermann, who joined the company in 2014, was previously CEO of European luxury apparel brand Yves Saint Laurent. She will continue to report directly to Mr Larsson.

In another change, Christine Beauchamp, global brand president for Lauren and Chaps, is leaving in mid-May for personal reasons, according to the memo. Ms Beauchamp joined the company in September 2015.

Mr Larsson, who took the CEO job from the company's 76-year-old founder, has brought a different perspective to the New York-based company. Before Old Navy, he worked at Hennes & Mauritz AB, a chain known for making runway-inspired fashions quickly and cheaply. Still, Mr Lauren himself remains closely involved in the company, holding the executive chairman and chief creative officer titles.

Distribution Role

Mr Larsson has made previous changes to the management team. The company said in April that Fredrik Hjalmers would join as corporate senior vice president for global expansion and business development. Mr Hjalmers, previously at H&M, is overseeing distribution and expansion, as well as global real estate and product licensing.

In February, the retailer announced that President of Global Brands Chris Peterson would resign by May 31 and his job would be eliminated. Mr Peterson took over that job 13 months ago, when the position was created. Former chief operating officer Jackwyn Nemerov, who served as Ralph Lauren's No 2 executive, retired from the company in November.

The efforts to streamline the organization has come at a cost. The company expects to incur one-time charges of US$120 million to US$150 million. Shares of Ralph Lauren have dropped 17 per cent so far this year as investors wait for signs of a turnaround.

The retailer is scheduled to report fiscal fourth-quarter earnings May 12.

BLOOMBERG