Ralph Lauren to Hire CFO From Rival Coach

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Ralph Lauren Corp. RL -0.34 % ’s new chief executive has poached a top executive from rival Coach Inc. COH 0.18 % to join his team, part of a broader management shake-up at the luxury brand, according to people familiar with the matter.

Shortly after unveiling a new strategy for Ralph Lauren, Chief Executive Stefan Larsson is expected to announce on Thursday several changes to his leadership team, according to one of these people.

Among the changes: Coach Chief Financial Officer Jane Hamilton Nielsen will be named to the same role at Ralph Lauren, according to the people. Ms. Nielsen, who will start the new job on Sept. 6, will have oversight of procurement, store operations and information technology, one of the people said.

Late Wednesday, Coach announced that Ms. Nielsen was leaving the company “to pursue another opportunity” and that it had launched a search for a permanent successor. She will remain at the handbag and accessories company into August.

At Ralph Lauren, she will replace Robert Madore, who has been CFO since April 2015. Mr. Madore is expected to remain with the company until Sept. 30, one of the people said.

The moves are the latest by Mr. Larsson to clean house and set a new course for the company after assuming his duties in November. He is the first outsider to hold the role of CEO, a position that Ralph Lauren, the company’s founder, had held for all of its 49-year-history. Mr. Lauren is chairman, chief creative officer and the company’s single largest shareholder.

Ms. Nielsen has been Coach’s finance chief since 2011 and played an important role in a turnaround that is taking place at that company. After nearly three years of declines, Coach reported its first sales growth in North America in its most recent quarter. The improved results were driven by new, trendier styles, the closure of dozens of stores and a reduction in promotions, which helped to increase full-priced sales.

Before joining Coach, Ms. Nielsen held various senior financial positions at PepsiCo Inc., PEP 0.67 % beginning in 1996. She began her career as an analyst at Credit Suisse. While at Coach, she was actively recruited on CFO searches by retailers and makers of consumer packed goods during the past several years, another person said.

Stefan Larsson, the CEO of Ralph Lauren, has brought in a top executive from rival Coach Inc. to join his team. ENLARGE
Stefan Larsson, the CEO of Ralph Lauren, has brought in a top executive from rival Coach Inc. to join his team. Photo: Sasha Maslov for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Larsson, who previously worked at Gap Inc GPS 0.57 % ,s Old Navy chain and H&M Hennes HMB -0.58 % and Mauritz AB, has been remaking his management team. He tapped former H&M executives to run global sourcing and business development. The new head of online commerce came from eBay Inc. EBAY -0.21 %

On Tuesday, Mr. Larsson outlined his new strategy to analysts, which includes closing 50 company owned retail stores and eliminating 1,000 jobs, or about 8% of the full-time staff. He also wants to refocus on the core Ralph Lauren, Polo and Lauren brands from a dozen labels, and reduce the time it takes to get products from design to stores to nine months from 15.

Analysts said Mr. Larsson was on the right track, but also noted that his strategy faced challenges. “All of these initiatives look well aligned with long-term structural changes in the underlying apparel environment,” Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss, wrote in a note to clients. But Mr. Buss added: “We believe it will be very difficult for the company to regain prior pricing power, particularly given broad availability of value-priced basics offerings from competitors.”

Joann S. Lublin at joann.lublin@wsj.com and Suzanne Kapner at Suzanne.Kapner@wsj.com



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