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Boneparth: The Man Inside the Suit

In an interview, Jones Apparel Group ceo Peter Boneparth talks about his path to fashion and the acquisition of Barneys New York

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“The Lauren thing” is the row Jones and Polo Ralph Lauren got into over the Lauren by Ralph Lauren better license, which culminated in mid-2003 with Jones giving the license back to Polo, launching a rival line and suing Polo. But it was as much the way the suit was filed that earned Boneparth his reputation.

During negotiations for a purchase agreement that would have ended the dispute, Boneparth left the room only to return and tell Polo’s president and chief operating officer, Roger Farah, that Jones had just filed suit in the matter. The Polo executives present were surprised, but ready with a counter suit, filed later that day.

Rather than Boneparth going toe-to-toe with fashion icon Lauren, the ceo has always stressed that his moves were part of a strategy carefully crafted with Jones’ board.

Jones founder and chairman Sidney Kimmel stood behind the newly minted ceo.

“I have the highest level of confidence in Peter Boneparth, whom I fully supported to be my successor as ceo,” said Kimmel in a statement at the time. “I am extremely confident that we will continue to build Jones Apparel Group into an even more dynamic powerhouse.”

The kind of dramatic bets Boneparth has used to grow the powerhouse Jones are familiar territory for him. After all, it was just such a bold move that brought him into the glitzy world of fashion, where he has grown increasingly comfortable, even though he’ll never be a garmento and isn’t kissy-kissy with designers.

“I tend to take the path least traveled,” admitted Boneparth.

He always has. Bypassing the big city lights, the Long Island native turned southward when it came time for college and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a law degree from the University of Virginia. Returning to New York, he went on to practice corporate securities law at Shea and Gould, before venturing into investment banking at Mabon Securities Corp. and later Rodman and Renshaw.

“I guess people would sum that up as saying I believe in the big fish in a small pond theory and that, up until probably Jones, it’s an adequate description,” said Boneparth, noting he once turned down a job at Goldman Sachs to work at a smaller firm where he could have more of an impact.
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