Ann Iverson: Exit, With Frills

Maybe it was her black leather getup in the August issue of British Vogue that tipped the scales. On Nov. 18, Ann Iverson became the third CEO since 1994 to leave Laura Ashley Holdings, the troubled retailer best known for its quintessentially British floral frocks and chintz curtains.

Iverson, who was hired in July, 1995, to turn Laura Ashley around, had made some big changes. She replaced most of management, brought in a new design team, and planned an ambitious U.S. expansion into larger stores featuring home furnishings. But the strategy backfired as home-furnishing sales stumbled and inventory piled up. The $524 million company issued three profits warnings and posted a $7.2 million pretax loss for the six months ended July 31.

Laura Ashley's board, chaired by Goldman Sachs partner John Thornton, tapped David Hoare, a management consultant recently named COO, to restart the turnaround. Iverson, who took home $1.6 million in pay last year, will walk away with a not-too-chintzy exit package: her base 1997 salary of $720,000.

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