DiNicola to retire as Zale Corp. chairman; Marcus will succeed him

Zale Corp., North America’s largest fine-jewelry retailer, announced March 9 that Robert J. DiNicola will retire as chairman of its board of directors on July 31, the end of the company’s fiscal year. Though he’s leaving the board at the same time, DiNicola will continue to be advisor to the corporation, said a Zale spokesperson.

Longtime board member Richard C. Marcus will succeeded him as chairman. Marcus has been a Zale director since 1993 and currently chairs its compensation committee. Marcus has a strong retail background, including 27 years with Neiman Marcus, the last nine of them as its chairman and chief executive officer.

DiNicola previously retired as Zale’s chairman in 2000, but returned as chairman and chief executive officer in early 2001 at the request of its directors when the corporation ran into financial difficulties. Mary Forte, Zale’s president, succeeded him as Zale’s CEO on July 31, 2002. DiNicola continued as chairman in a non-executive role.

“After two years of a successful management transition, it is now time to complete the process,” said DiNicola. “Clearly, leadership of the corporation under the direction of Mary Forte is in very good hands. Her hard work and determination [during] her tenure has proven to be a formula for success. I am very proud of our entire team and all that has been accomplished.”

Forte thanked him “for all that he has achieved going back to 1994, as he rebuilt Zale from Chapter 11 to the industry leader that it is today. On a more personal note,” she added, “I want to thank Bob for all of his support and guidance over the years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

DiNicola was originally named chairman and CEO of Zale in 1994, following Zale’s return from bankruptcy reorganization. He built a skilled executive management team (including Forte, who also joined in 1994), oversaw Zale Corp.’s restoration to financial stability (with annual sales topping $1 billion), its expansion and, through acquisitions in the United States and Canada, the return to its top spot as an industry leader.

In 1999, DiNicola first relinquished his CEO responsibilities to prepare the company for an orderly leadership transition, after giving Zale a presence in every major segment of the jewelry industry. He left in September 2000 and was succeeded by Beryl Raff, formerly Zale Corp. president and Forte’s predecessor, as chairman and CEO. During her first months, however, sales and earnings dropped sharply. When she resigned in early 2001, DiNicola agreed to come back as chairman and CEO and stay until the company was back on track.

Zale Corp. operates about 2,230 retail locations throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, as well as online. Its brands include Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Zale, Zale Direct at www.zales.com, Gordon’s Jewelers, Bailey Banks & Biddle Fine Jewelers, Piercing Pagoda, and (in Canada) Peoples Jewellers and Mappins Jewellers.