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NMG Seeking Growth: Taps Strategy Exec, Is Barneys Up Next?

Neiman’s named former Sears executive Steven Dennis as senior vice president of strategy, business development and multichannel marketing.

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NEW YORK — Despite the stellar earnings reported this week, The Neiman Marcus Group is far from content.

Demonstrating that it wants growth beyond its 36 luxury-filled stores and over-the-top catalogues, Neiman’s named Steven Dennis, a former Sears, Roebuck executive, as senior vice president of strategy, business development and multichannel marketing to explore new avenues of growth. His first day on the job was Thursday.

Meanwhile, Neiman’s already might have a target in its sights. Speculation is heating up that it is examining Barneys New York to determine whether it should make a bid.

Regarding the appointment of Dennis, Burt Tansky, president and chief executive officer of The Neiman Marcus Group, said Thursday, “We never had a person like this on board. It’s a new office and we’re very excited about the prospects. This just reinforces our team, puts a new player on board who will help us with a number of issues that we have anyway.”

He said Dennis will help in strategic planning, “linkages” between stores, catalogue and Internet selling channels and the search for acquisitions.

In December 1998, NMG divulged a strategy to buy relatively undeveloped brands with perceived growth potential and purchased a controlling interest in Gurwitch Bristow Products, manufacturer of Laura Mercier makeup. In 1999, the company bought a controlling interest in Kate Spade, but there have been no further acquisitions since.

“We’ve been looking at a lot. You’ve got to be patient,” said James Skinner, chief financial officer. “We continue to look at a lot; with Steve we will be able to look at more.”

Skinner said the search includes brands, retailers and multichannel companies.

Tansky and Skinner declined to comment on the Barneys speculation, though Tansky did say that with Dennis joining the team, pursuing acquisitions and developing new strategies becomes “more intense.”

Although Neiman’s was mentioned as a suitor as early as July when Barneys was first put on the block, a source said that rumblings about Neiman’s interest heated up two weeks ago.

One investment banker said, “Of all the names mentioned as suitors, Neiman’s makes the most sense. Neiman’s is well run and buying Barneys could be the answer to how Neiman’s grows its New York business. In addition, Neiman’s brings a lot to the table for Barneys in terms of back-office synergies and buying power. This combination could be the perfect partnership.”
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