NEW YORK – Longtime Warnaco Group Inc. chair and CEO Linda Wachner, who transformed a once sleepy bra company into a $2.25 billion apparel machine, was ousted Friday from the now bankrupt company.
Wachner will be "moving toward new business ventures" and will be replaced as CEO by Antonio C. Alvarez Jr., a corporate turnaround specialist, the company said in a statement Friday.
The company also said that Stuart D. Buchalter has been elected to succeed Wachner as chairman of the board, effective immediately.
The shake-up came after Wachner, who served as chief executive of Warnaco since 1987 and chairman since 1991, met with the board of directors Thursday night and early Friday morning, sources with knowledge of the meetings said.
"With Warnaco's restructuring process firmly under way, the board believes that now is the right time for a change in leadership," said Harvey Golub, chairman of the restructuring committee of Warnaco's board of directors, in a statement.
During her reign at Warnaco, Wachner transformed the staid company into an apparel making empire, whose products range from Calvin Klein jeans to Olga bras and Speedo swimsuits.
But since mid-1998, the company's business began to unravel, hurt by a reduction in demand for its products and fast-eroding market share. A high profile dispute with Calvin Klein, settled in January, also hurts its core licensed Calvin Klein jeans and intimate apparel businesses.
Wachner could not be reached for comment Friday.
The company, which filed for bankruptcy in June, listed $2.37 billion in assets against $3.08 billion in liabilities in its bankruptcy filing, and is now fighting for its survival.
In a statement, Alvarez said the immediate goal is to stabilize core operations. The company said it plans further operational changes to realign the business into three key product groups: sportswear, intimate apparel and swimwear.