Mark Lee, the global president and chief executive of Gucci between 2004 and 2008, will start as the chief executive of the Dubai-owned fashion house from September 1, it was announced yesterday.
“The appointment marks an exciting new era for Barneys as we look to build the brand and maximise its existing strong platform for growth,” said Andy Watson, Barney’s chairman. Barneys, frequented by celebrities and known for carrying luxury fashion brands such as Balenciaga and Lanvin, was bought by Istithmar World, the investment arm of Dubai World, in May 2007 for US$825 million (Dh3.03 billion).
But the upscale department store has struggled ever since. In May 2008, its chairman, chief executive and president Howard Socol resigned, and his post has been vacant for more than two years.
Rumours of a takeover, sale or closure of the company have been rife in the US for most of that period. But last year, Istithmar allocated a “significant” undisclosed sum of money for Barneys.
Istithmar’s then-chief executive, David Jackson, would not say how much it gave but media reports estimated a figure between $10m and $25m.
Mr Lee began his career at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1984 and served in senior positions at Giorgio Armani and Jil Sander brands. He has also served as the chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent.
“I am honoured to be joining Barneys … a unique landmark retailer, store and brand, and one that is synonymous with luxury and style,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that together with the strong Barneys team we can take the company to even greater prominence.”