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Ralph v. Jones: The Gloves Are Off

Jones Apparel Group and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. are suing each other over the bitter dispute involving Jones’ licensed Lauren businesses.

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So how does he expect to operate the Polo Jeans business under such litigious conditions?“We don’t have a choice. They haven’t tried to get it back. We’ll run that business to the best of our ability,” said Boneparth.

As for the Lauren line, the two companies had been negotiating for a transition line which they thought would have put less pressure on retailers, but Boneparth chose not to go that route. Sources believe Jones caught Polo off-guard, and Polo didn’t expect to have to ramp up so quickly.

“Polo was not prepared for that transition. Polo wanted it [the Lauren license] back, and they proposed it to Jones, but Jones is going to make it extraordinarily difficult for them to get it done,” said one source.

Boneparth’s June 3 letter alleged that Polo has been “conspiring with Jackwyn Nemerov, the former president of Jones Apparel, in clear violation of the confidentiality and noncompete provisions of her agreement with Jones and that Polo tortiously induced Ms. Nemerov’s violations.”

Sources said that Lauren will have to pay heavily to get Nemerov off the hook and questioned whether Lauren will come to her defense.

Farah told WWD that he has not been working with Nemerov and found her inclusion in the lawsuit “very strange. She has a very clear noncompete. She’s talked to people in the industry. Everybody understands what a noncompete is.”

Nemerov didn’t return a phone call to her home seeking comment. “She’s kind of tied up right now,” said her husband.

Polo now has two months to create a Lauren better-price line, while in litigation and all without sourcing, backroom facilities, patterns, samples, and management in place. Sources don’t believe Boneparth will give Polo any of the samples and patterns and other items it needs, and it will be difficult for Lauren to start from scratch, and build the business that quickly. Especially when they’re dealing with a business that last year did $548 million in revenues.

“If you lose that floor space for a major season [fall], the retailer has to give that floor space to other people,” said one source.
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