Esprit Keeps Transformation Plan as Top Executives Leave

Esprit Holdings Ltd. (330) said it won’t change a strategy intended to boost the fashion brand’s revenue, even after both the chairman and chief executive officer resigned and the stock dropped to a seven-month low.

CEO Ronald Van der Vis said on a conference call that he’ll remain in his post for 12 more months, as he’s stepping down wholly for family reasons and not because of any dispute with the board. No strategic changes are planned to Esprit’s transformation program, though some “adjustments” are possible, Van der Vis said on the call yesterday.

The 44-year-old Dutchman has been trying to boost revenue from China and improve the Hong Kong-based retail chain’s clothing designs as Hennes & Mauritz AB (HMB) and Inditex SA (ITX)’s Zara lure customers away. In an investor presentation last year, the company said it planned to spend more than HK$18 billion ($2.3 billion) over four years on efforts to revive its brands through more marketing and a bigger Chinese presence.

Hans-Joachim Koerber resigned as chairman June 13, a day after the retailer announced Van der Vis was stepping down. Their exits are the latest hurdle for the casual-clothing retailer, which in September reported a 98 percent plunge in fiscal-year profit and said its brand had “lost its soul.” Van der Vis said the reorganization’s execution is “on track.”

Esprit fell 12 percent to HK$9.23 at the close in Hong Kong yesterday, the lowest price since Nov. 23, after dropping 22 percent the previous day. The stock plunged 73 percent last year.

Europe’s Role

Europe accounted for 79 percent of Esprit’s revenue in the 12 months ended June 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Fiscal first-half profit dropped 74 percent.

The company hasn’t received any acquisition proposals and isn’t holding takeover talks, Van der Vis said yesterday.

Vice Chairman Paul Cheng, 74, declined to step in as chairman because of his age, and his nomination of Raymond Or for the position was accepted unanimously by the board, Van der Vis said. The resignations of the CEO, who said he’s leaving because his family doesn’t want to relocate from the Netherlands, and the chairman aren’t connected, he said.

Van der Vis, who joined the company in 2009, announced his departure a little more than six months after the resignation in December of Chief Financial Officer Chew Fook Aun. Thomas Tang, previously CFO at Sino Land Co., succeeded Chew in May.

The CEO is leaving as the company has started showing some improvement in same-store sales. The retailer said in May that revenue at outlets open more than a year increased 0.5 percent in the three months ended March after dropping 4.6 percent in the six months to December 31.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Cruz in Frankfurt at; Vinicy Chan in Hong Kong at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at; Anjali Cordeiro at

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