Tiffany & Co. (TIF:US) Chief Executive Officer Michael Kowalski will step down in 2015 after more than 15 years running the luxury jeweler, passing the reins to President Frederic Cumenal.
Kowalski will relinquish the CEO job on April 1, while staying on the board as nonexecutive chairman, the New York-based company said today in a statement. The 62-year-old, who started at Tiffany in 1983, became CEO in 1999.
Cumenal, 54, was widely seen as Kowalski’s successor, David Schick, an analyst with Stifel Financial Corp. in Baltimore, wrote in a note to clients today. The handover represents an acceleration of management’s strategy to invigorate the jeweler, which has been adding new designs and updating stores, he said.
“Mr. Kowalski, we believe, knew adding newness (including Mr. Cumenal himself) was necessary,” Schick wrote. “It’s difficult (but powerful) for successful companies or brands to admit they don’t have it all figured out.”
Schick recommends buying the shares.
Cumenal had already been expanding his duties ahead of today’s announcement. After joining the company in 2011 as executive vice president of sales and distribution, he was named president last year and his responsibilities were broadened to include design, merchandising and marketing.
“Frederic Cumenal is ideally suited to succeed me as chief executive officer, and we will continue to work closely together to ensure a seamless transition,” Kowalski said in the statement.
Tiffany, the world’s second-largest luxury jewelry chain, has been able to weather a broader retail slump by serving an affluent clientele with money to spend. That has let the company raise prices and boost its profit margins. In May, Tiffany posted first-quarter earnings that exceeded analysts’ estimates and increased its forecast for the year.
The company’s shares (TIF:US) have climbed 6.8 percent this year. They fell 0.6 percent to $99.09 at the close in New York.
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