As Sale Buzz Heats Up, More Changes at Collective

NEW YORK — Even as speculation continues to build about a potential sale of Collective Brands Inc., the company is making changes to its executive ranks.

Keds last week tapped Rick Blackshaw — most recently VP and GM of the Chuck Taylor All Star division at Converse Inc. — as its new president. He stepped in on Tuesday after Kristin Kohler Burrows resigned to pursue career opportunities closer to her home in New York. She had been with the brand since 2008.

“There are not a lot of great American brands out there that have the same heritage and legacy and consumer connection to the Keds brand,” said Blackshaw. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the team and [learning] the heritage of [the brand] and also determining how to take that and bring it forward.”

Initial plans for Keds include boosting its global business, said Blackshaw, who will report to Gregg Ribatt, president and CEO of Collective Brand’s performance and lifestyle division.

“There is a great core silhouette to build on and I’d say there have been some really important inroads made to better global distribution, so it’s a matter of continuing to foster those [relationships],” said Blackshaw.

Previously, the executive has also served as global marketing director at Avia Group and held a management position at The Timberland Co.

“I’ve worked on start-up opportunities as well as $1 billion-plus brands, and those skill sets come into play with Keds nicely,” Blackshaw said.

News of the appointment was somewhat overshadowed by fresh speculation that a sale of all or part of Collective was getting closer.

Following a new press report, industry insiders suggested Wolverine World Wide Inc. or Skechers USA Inc. could be entertaining a bid. (Both firms declined to comment.)

A source close to Collective said the first round of bidding was due to wrap up shortly, with the second round set to commence in the next month. Insiders said one scenario is that a consortium consisting of a strategic player and a private equity firm could join forces, with the strategic player more likely being a vendor than a retailer.

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