>> Effective Sept. 1, Mark Lee will take the helm of Barneys as chief executive officer, a position that hasn't been filled since 2008, when Howard Socol (who held the position for seven years) resigned after apparent disagreements with Barneys parent company Istithmar over plans to open stores outside the United States.
Lee had been in negotiations for the job previously (when he stepped down as president and CEO of Gucci Group in 2008, speculation was ignited that he was Barneys-bound), and talks resumed several weeks ago, according to a person familiar with the matter. His appointment follows well-recorded struggles for the retailer: rumors surfaced of a bankruptcy filing or sale after Barneys recorded a loss last year.
What will Lee bring to the table?
Since resigning from Gucci Group in 2008, Lee has since been a consultant and joined the boards of companies including Tory Borch and Yoox — Puig Group and Harry Winston also approached him in the same capacity, but he declined. He also met with Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, recently, and reportedly entertained and rebuffed an offer to head Louis Vuitton’s North American business.
Lee's agenda, now that he's installed at Barneys, likely includes making the retailer profitable, evaluating the locations to see if some should be closed, bolstering the stores' image, and taking the retailer international. His four year tenure at Gucci Group gave him a unique perspective for the job. “He has an interesting background for this company because he grew up in wholesale, he spent many years selling to Barneys, so he knows Barneys from his early life, from a different side,” said Harold D. Reiter of Herbert Mines Associates, which handled Barneys' executive search.