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Ann Iverson: Exit, With Frills


In Business This Week: HEADLINER

ANN IVERSON: EXIT, WITH FRILLS

Maybe it was her black leather getup in the August issue of British Vogue that tipped the scales. On Nov. 18, Ann Iverson became the third CEO since 1994 to leave Laura Ashley Holdings, the troubled retailer best known for its quintessentially British floral frocks and chintz curtains.

Iverson, who was hired in July, 1995, to turn Laura Ashley around, had made some big changes. She replaced most of management, brought in a new design team, and planned an ambitious U.S. expansion into larger stores featuring home furnishings. But the strategy backfired as home-furnishing sales stumbled and inventory piled up. The $524 million company issued three profits warnings and posted a $7.2 million pretax loss for the six months ended July 31.

Laura Ashley's board, chaired by Goldman Sachs partner John Thornton, tapped David Hoare, a management consultant recently named COO, to restart the turnaround. Iverson, who took home $1.6 million in pay last year, will walk away with a not-too-chintzy exit package: her base 1997 salary of $720,000.By Julia Flynn EDITED BY PAT WECHSLER AND KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

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DOW JONES BEATS A RETREAT

DOW JONES APPARENTLY HAS lost confidence in its plan to spend $650 million to shore up Dow Jones Markets, formerly known as Telerate, rather than sell off the unit immediately--as some shareholders have advocated. After a board meeting on Nov. 19, the company announced that it will lay off as many as 300 of the unit's nearly 4,000 employees and will be taking a "very sizable" associated charge in 1997. In less than a year, Dow Jones has spent $170 million on the troubled financial-data unit, which has been losing market share to competitors Reuters and Bloomberg Financial Markets and is now up for sale. Notes hedge-fund manager and one-time activist shareholder James Cramer: "This money has been spent and lost. I hope [top executives] don't get to keep their jobs."EDITED BY PAT WECHSLER AND KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

WHO BLURRED THE BOOKS AT B&L?

EXECUTIVES AND MANAGERS tempted to set overaggressive targets for their sales forces should take note: As part of a securities fraud settlement between the Securities & Exchange Commission and Bausch & Lomb, the company has agreed to pay $42 million to shareholders and settle SEC charges that former executives crammed two years' worth of contact-lens sales into just two weeks. The SEC found that even though senior management pushed aggressive sales targets, the real culprits were overzealous division managers.EDITED BY PAT WECHSLER AND KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

DEREG BLUES IN L.A.

IN A LAST-MINUTE EFFORT TO keep the lights on in Los Angeles, the city's ailing Water & Power Dept. is embarking on a major restructuring that will cut as many as 2,000 workers. The nation's largest municipal utility is saddled with $7.5 billion in debt, making it difficult to compete in California's soon-to-be deregulated power market. In other California deregulation news, Pacific Gas & Electric sold off three fossil-fuel plants, or one-quarter of its generating power, to Duke Energy for $501 million.EDITED BY PAT WECHSLER AND KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top


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