Today, Dubai investment firm Istithmar World officially announced that former Gucci head Mark Lee would assume the role of CEO at Barneys New York.
Former Barneys CEO Howard Socol left the company in 2008 after rumored frustrations with the store’s new owners. Istithmar acquired Barneys from Jones Apparel Group in 2007 for about $900 million.
The recession worsened Barneys’ already shaky financial situation, and soon enough analysts began talking possible bankruptcy. Barneys previously filed for bankruptcy in the mid-’90s after a period of over-expansion.
This time around, it looked like a single investor might aim to take over the company. Billionaire Ron Burkle was purportedly interested in buying the retailer from Istithmar. The investment firm refused the offer, and eventually pumped more cash into the company.
The appointment of Lee can only be a good thing. Barneys is a pretty unique retailer in that its merchandising and creative are spot on–it’s the back end that needs work. Finding a leader who understands both sides of things is difficult, but Lee is probably the most qualified exec out there. The luxury retail vet has held positions everywhere from Saks Fifth Avenue to Jil Sander, and most recently, Gucci.