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Guess? What

Brian Fleming departs the apparel maker. Plus other finance-department comings and goings.

1Jan

Following in the footsteps of the former CFOs of Nordstrom Inc., Old Navy, and Williams-Sonoma Inc., Brian Fleming, CFO of Los Angeles-based apparel maker Guess? Inc., has found that the retail industry is not quite his style.


Fleming's departure came a day after the company officially hired its first COO, former Footstar Inc. CFO Carlos Alberini, and one week after it announced a major earnings disappointment and credit problems. Citing slow sales and an overstocked inventory, the company reported that its earnings would come in at a third of what it had projected, and that it would likely be in violation of a loan covenant with Chase Manhattan Corp. by the end of the fourth quarter. About 80 percent of Guess shares are held by the Marciano brothers, Maurice and Paul, co-chairmen and co-CEOs, and by Armand Marciano, EVP, according to the company's April 2000 proxy.


Guess declined to answer questions about Fleming, but analysts say he likely left of his own volition before the new COO began making changes.


"In addition to operating experience, [Alberini] brings a tremendous amount of financial experience," says John Rouleau, a senior analyst at Gruntal & Co., in Chicago. "They're going to need to refill the CFO slot, but I don't know if it needs to be [filled] instantly. [Hiring Alberini] buys them some time."


Meanwhile, the company says it has a plan to reduce inventory and recover cash flow, and expects to reach a resolution on the loan-covenant violation. There was no comment on when it expects to hire a new CFO or what Fleming plans to do next.



Rub-a-Dub-Dub

Forget having just one Maytag man — how about three? Maytag Corp. recently filled three top positions with the appointments of Steven Wood to EVP and CFO, Steven Klyn to VP and treasurer, and Ernest Park to SVP and CIO. Both Wood and Klyn are veteran Maytagers, while Park joins the Newton, Iowa-based home appliance firm from Honeywell International.



Indra Nooyi has accepted the Pepsi Challenge. Nooyi, who was named president of PepsiCo Inc. and retains her CFO title, was a major proponent of the recently announced $13.8 billion acquisition of Quaker Oats Co. The deal came on the heels of PepsiCo's purchase of Tropicana Products Inc. Nooyi becomes second in command to chairman and CEO- designate Steven Reinemund.



Ted French, who previously served as CFO of heavy-equipment company CNH Global NV, has become the hub of Textron Inc., headquartered in Providence. French succeeds Stephen Key as CFO. Key has retired from the aircraft and helicopter maker.



Reigned In


Kirk B. Michael is getting the royal treatment from Duke Energy Corp., headquartered in Houston. The former VP of planning and finance for Duke's Energy Services division was named VP and CFO, finance and planning, for the same unit at the multinational energy company. It is a newly created position.


It appears as if the thrills and frills of being VP and CFO of Columbus, Ohio-based Intimate Brands Inc. have worn off for Michael Newman. Newman resigned from the intimate-apparel retailer in order to "emphasize family and pursue other personal and community interests." The company is conducting an external search for his successor.



Ready, Freddie?


Vaughn Clarke is making himself at home at Freddie Mac, located in McLean, Va. Clarke has served as interim CFO for the stockholder-owned firm — which supports home ownership and rental housing — since March 2000. He was recently named permanent finance chief and EVP.



Red Alert!

Hats off to Kevin Thompson! The former VP of operations for Red Hat Inc. has been elevated to CFO of the Linux software company, based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The position has been open since the July departure of Harold Covert, who went to Silicon Graphics.


Nextel Communications Inc. is calling on John S. Brittain Jr. to serve as its acting CFO, replacing former EVP and CFO Steven Shindler. Shindler has been promoted to CEO of the Reston, Va.-based wireless communication services firm.



All Downhill from Here


The life of Mike DiGiacomo, CFO of Texere LLC, in New York, has been full of ups and one very big down. That down is a 500-foot vertical-drop ice sledding run in St. Moritz, Switzerland, called the Cresta Run. For more than 115 years, thrill seekers like DiGiacomo have ridden small metal sleds from the top of the run, which resembles a bobsled course, to the finish line, three-quarters of a mile away in the tiny town of Celerina. Unlike wimpy luge riders, Cresta riders do it on their stomachs, face first.


DiGiacomo first read about the sport in a 1975 Sports Illustrated story. "I used to go skiing in Switzerland with a friend, and one day I said to him, 'Why don't we go check it out?'" He's returned every year since, and joined the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club, which oversees the run.


The only way to slow down on the run, on which riders can hit 90 mph, is to rake the ice with the metal toes of the shoes designed for the sport. "If you rake hard, you're OK," says DiGiacomo. "It's when you try to go faster that you get into trouble." He's flipped out of the run more than once.


DiGiacomo is so smitten with the run that he wrote a book about it, Apparently Unharmed (Texere Publishing, 2000). That's how Cresta announcers describe the condition of riders who crash, then walk away. When DiGiacomo was shopping the book to publishers, he met a principal at Texere who not only agreed to publish the book, but also offered him the CFO job.

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