Hilpert new ceo at Williams-Sonoma
By Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, 2/19/2001 12:00:00 AM
SAN FRANCISCO -In an effort to shore up its infrastructure and operations, Williams-Sonoma has named Dale Hilpert ceo, effective April 2.
As a result, Howard Lester, currently chairman and ceo, will step down as ceo while retaining his position as chairman "for a couple, three years," he said.
Gary Friedman, president and coo, will continue to lead the company's brand, merchandising and marketing strategies.
Williams-Sonoma, Lester explained in a conference call, "had conducted a search for a chief administrative officer. It soon became clear that our goal was beyond that. When we found the person to lead the company, I decided to transition my activities as ceo."
Hilbert, currently chairman and ceo of New York-based Venator Group, a leading footwear retailer, "brings new operational depth to our exceptional brand development and management," Lester said. Williams-Sonoma's brands include Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Bed & Bath, Hold Everything and Chambers. The launch of Elm Street, the company's proposed "value brand," which was supposed to kick off this year, was postponed to 2002. "Dale Hilbert will have the option to postpone the launch," Lester stated.
According to Lester, "We have been innovative and creative and built strong brands. We woke up and had a $2 billion company and needed someone to guide us operationally in our infrastructure and processes-with a strong financial and operational background."
Hilbert and Friedman "will work side by side-Gary on building brands and Dale on operations and as ceo. Gary will have the primary focus on running the brands and all distribution channels and not worry about the distribution system," Lester said.
Overall, he concluded, "we have done a better job of merchandising than operationally. We haven't been as good as we have to be. We have been playing catch-up on the operational side."
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