NEW YORK, Nov. 19. THE woman who built the Warnaco Group — and by extension, the Speedo swimwear brand — into a mult-ibillion dollar apparel brand has left the building and the company.
Linda J. Wachner, 55, longtime head of Warnaco Group which makes such noted brands as Warner's lingerie, Calvin Klein jeans and underwear, Chaps by Ralph Lauren and Speedo swimwear, stepped down as the firm's chief executive last last week.
She was succeeded by Antonio C. Alvarez Jr., who has been the company's chief restructuring officer since last summer, when Warnaco filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Warnaco's board asked Mrs. Wachner to step down as CEO, "people familiar with the situation said."
Warnaco has $2.4 billion in debt, the firm's chief financial officer said recently.
"With the large amount they owe to the banks, the easiest way to raise cash is to sell off some of these assets," said a prominent retail analyst. Alvarez has identified six Warnaco businesses for likely sale, but Speedo is not among them.
Mrs. Wachner said in an interview with The Journal that "We reached a point in the relationship where it became clear that it was time to move on," noting that she still owns about 22% of the company.
Mrs. Wachner bought the company in 1986 in a leveraged buyout and took it public five years later. According to the Journal, Mrs. Wachner's employment agreement with Warnaco, reached prior to the bankruptcy-court filing in June, called for her to receive about $24 million if she was terminated without cause. Such a
payment now would likely have to be approved by the bankruptcy court. She didn't receive any other payments in connection with her leaving, a person
familiar with the matter said.
— Bill Bell