Zale Corp. Chairman Resigns

Richard C. Marcus, chairman of Zale Corp. since 2004, has resigned from that post, the Dallas Morning News reported. Board member Jack Lowe Jr. has succeeded Marcus as chairman of the company, a leading retailer of fine jewelry in North America, based in Irving, Tex. It operates approximately 2,250 retail jewelry locations throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Mr. Marcus, 69, joined the Zale board as it was exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1993.

His 14-year tenure included some of the chain’s best times, including its high-profile turnaround in the 1990s, led by chief executive Robert J. DiNicola, the newspaper reports. However, recent years have been marked by declining market share and profit and near-constant turnover in the top executive ranks.

Marcus announced his resignation as chairman, and passed the chairmanship to Lowe, at an August board meeting, said David H. Sternblitz, Zale Corp. vice president and treasurer, in a JCK interview. The resignation was announced Monday.

Marcus will remain a member of the board of directors until their November annual meeting, when he will leave.

Sternblitz told JCK that Marcus’ resignation is unrelated to Zale Corp.’s sale this month of the upscale Bailey, Banks & Biddle chain, or any other recent events at the company.

“It is a personal decision,” he said of Marcus. “He feels its time to move on. He had thoughts of doing this for quite some time, but given the challenges to the company in the past year, he didn’t feel that it was appropriate then. Now that he has helped to stabilize the company and it’s on the right track, he thinks it is a good time to step down.”

As for any changes in Zale Corp.’s top officials, Sternblitz said that the Zale Corp. board of directors remains “very supportive of its management team.”

Lowe, 68, is president of the Dallas Independent School District Board and chairman of Dallas-based mechanical and plumbing contractor TDIndustries Ltd. He has been a Zale board member since 2004.

Even after a failed attempt to merge with U.K.-based Signet Group in 2006 and more recently, the purchase of about 13 percent of the company by two  private equity companies, and the sale of its upscale 70-store Bailey Banks & Biddle chain, both the outgoing and incoming chairs told the newspaper that they hope that Zale remains an independent company.

Zale, which operates Zales, Zale Outlet, and Peoples Jewellers, Gordon’s, and Piercing Pagoda, has lost market share over the past three years, becoming the No. 2 U.S. jeweler behind Signet’s U.S. division.