Tiffany in a Twist

The noted retailer’s board and CEO get a shake-up

Tiffany & Co. wants extra coffee with breakfast.

After a shake-up in its C-suite and three high-level additions to its board, interim CEO Michael Kowalski said the House of the Blue Box hopes to speed up its metabolism.

“We are focused on increasing the pace of new products and new innovations,” he told analysts on the company’s annual earnings call. “We want greater newness at a greater pace.”

It’s all part of a startling series of changes at the generally staid 180-year-old retailer. Kowalski, who headed Tiffany for 15 years, returned as CEO in February, ­following the abrupt dismissal of Frederic Cumenal.

A veteran of LVMH, ­Cumenal—­together with design ­director Francesca ­Amfitheatrof—had been charged with turning Tiffany into a “global luxury brand.” Yet ­Amfitheatrof left in January, and former Ralph Lauren exec Reed ­Krakoff signed on as chief creative officer. Cumenal departed three weeks later, on the Sunday that Tiffany was running a big Super Bowl ad with Lady Gaga.

In announcing Cumenal’s departure, Kowalski said the board believes “that accelerating execution of [our current core business] strategies is necessary.” Following this, Tiffany’s board announced an agreement with 5.1 percent owner Jana Partners LLC, an “activist” investment fund, to expand the board to include three high-profile new ­directors: Francesco Trapani, former head of Bulgari; James Lillie, who ran consumer products giant Jarden Corp.; and Roger Farah, current co-CEO of Tory Burch.

Yet given the persistent rumors that Tiffany is a takeover target—an idea that Cumenal was unenthusiastic about—some thought it significant that two of the three new board members headed companies that ended up being sold.

For all its current turmoil, Tiffany is still profitable. Sales have been uneven for the last two years, due to problems in Asia and a series of bad breaks. The proximity of its New York City flagship, on Fifth Avenue, to Trump Tower has proved problematic since Election Day, when media, protesters, and Secret Service began swarming into the area. Sales fell 7 percent in that location, and are down 11 percent for the year.

Top: Tiffany & Co. Hardwear chain wrap necklace in 18k yellow gold, $11,500; inset: from Lady Gaga’s Tiffany campaign

(Gaga: David Sims; necklace: Tiffany & Co.)




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