Neil Cole Speaks Out On Iconix Departure In Letter to Friends, Colleagues

Big changes are ahead at Iconix Brand Group.

Neil Cole, longtime CEO, president and chairman, stepped down this afternoon after spending the last decade building the business into a brand management powerhouse. Board member Peter Cuneo has been named as the interim CEO and chairman of the board.

In a letter sent to friends and colleagues late Thursday, Cole addressed his departure.

“Ten years ago, when we changed our name to Iconix Brand Group, everything we dreamed went on to became a reality and so much more,” he wrote. “Little did we know, but, we were pioneers, leaders and the first movers on a new asset-light business model to be emulated and envied by many.  For the last 10 years, Iconix grew at an average [compound annual growth rate] of over 30 percent both top and bottom line, having made close to a billion dollars in profit.

Cole noted that today, the company owns 35 powerful consumer brands doing approximately $14 billion in annual retail sales and that he believes the company will continue to capitalize on its success.  “As many of you have heard me refer to these brands as my “children,” it is my hope that you will continue to nurture and grow and develop them to their highest potential and they will continue to flourish under your stewardship,” Cole wrote.

This year has shaped up to be a significant year of transition at Iconix, which owns Candie’s, Badgley Mischka, Umbro and Marc Ecko. In April, CFO Jeff Lupinacci and COO Seth Horowitz both resigned within a matter of weeks of each other. While the two departures weren’t related, the turnover did spur some concern by market watchers. David Jones was named new CFO and EVP in June.

Los Angeles-based law firm Glancy Binkow & Goldberg LLP also said this spring it is investigating potential claims on behalf of investors in Iconix concerning the “company’s and its officers’ possible violations of federal securities laws.” A similar lawsuit was filed this afternoon by another firm.

The Iconix board said Thursday it has formed a search committee to evaluate candidates to serve as the Company’s next CEO and will be engaging a leading executive search firm to assist in the process.

Cuneo sought to reassure investors in a statement. “The board believes strongly in the future of Iconix’s underlying business, as signified by its diversified portfolio of iconic consumer brands, outstanding global licensing network, and strong free cash flow generation. Our strategy will not change and we are highly confident that the Company is well positioned to resume its growth trajectory, organically and through new acquisitions in the months and years ahead,” said Cuneo in a statement.

Share prices slipped over 3 percent in after hours trading on the news.

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