Freedman, 82, Sterling Jewelers Executive

Joseph Freedman, a retired long term executive of Sterling Jewelers, Inc., died Saturday. He joined Sterling in 1982 as vice president of Merchandising and served in that role through 1986, responsible for merchandising, marketing, and advertising. From 1986 to 1991, he was executive vice president.

“Joe was an exceptional leader and remarkable individual who demonstrated a true passion for our industry, company and his community,” said Mark Light, Sterling Jewelers president and chief executive officer. “He was a mentor to many of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with him.”

Freedman was part of the team that helped Sterling grow from a private company with 70 stores, to a public company in which numerous acquisitions took place, resulting in Sterling having more than 800 stores by 1990, and becoming part of the largest specialty retail jewelry company in the world. In fact, from 1991 to 1994 he was a consulting officer for Sterling’s parent company, Signet Group plc, working in the London office.

Freedman returned to the U.S. in 1994 and served as vice president of Development for the Jared Division until 1998 with responsibility for merchandising, operations, real estate, new market development, new store development, financial supervision, and new store openings.

“Joe’s leadership was critical during historic periods for the company,” said Terry Burman, Signet Jewelers Ltd. chief executive officer and Sterling Jewelers Inc. chairman. “In addition to his professional industry reputation, dedication, and commitment to Sterling and Signet, it’s important to note that Joe’s involvement in the community was an inspiration to us all. Among the many local organizations he supported, Joe was a former chairman of Summit County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate guardian ad litem program, and the past chairman of the Akron Chapter of Service Corps of Retired Executives, a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. On behalf of all at Sterling and Signet, and the entire jewelry industry that had the privilege of knowing and working with Joe, we extend our deepest sympathies to his devoted wife, Mary Ann, and his family.”

Freedman earned a Journalism degree from Boston University in 1948 and began his 50-year career in the jewelry industry with Alexandria, Va.-based Kay Jewelers Inc. the same year. As Assistant to the president, he was a member of Kay’s executive committee, represented the president in the field, and was liaison between advertising and merchandising until 1960.

During his tenure with Kay Jewelers Inc., he worked in sales, collections, training, personnel, and was a store manager and district manager. From 1960 to 1975 he served as executive vice president of Augusta, Ga.-based A.A. Friedman Company; was president of Minneapolis, Wisc.-based Dayton Hudson Jewelers from 1975 to 1980; and executive vice president of Nashville-based Service Merchandise before joining Sterling in 1982.