NEW YORK, United States — Daniella Vitale, formerly chief operating officer of Barneys New York, has been named chief executive officer of the luxury retailer. Her mentor Mark Lee, who joined Barneys as chief executive in 2010, has been named executive chairman reporting to Richard Perry, whose hedge fund Perry Capital owns a majority stake in the company.
“Leading Barneys New York has been a privilege and the ultimate finale for my full-time career. When I joined as CEO in 2010 I thought I would remain for four years,” Lee said in a statement. “Six and a half years later it’s time for me to turn the day-to-day management over to Daniella who has long been my planned successor and is uniquely qualified to take the leadership reins. I will continue to support Richard Perry at the board level as I pursue other part time opportunities and passions in what I am characterizing as my retirement from full-time luxury industry work.”
Vitale, who worked alongside Lee at the Kering-owned Gucci where he was chief executive until 2008, joined Barneys in 2010 as chief merchant and executive vice president. In 2013, she was promoted to chief operating officer, in charge of all women’s merchandising, business development, digital strategy and store operations. “I want to thank Mark for being a mentor, partner and friend for the bulk of my career and giving me the opportunity to be part of this incredible company,” Vitale said. “I am part of an organisation with a rich history, extraordinary talent and an exciting future.”
“When Perry Capital purchased Barneys, Mark Lee and I sat down to discuss the management team. He told me that he had recruited Daniella Vitale and she was his heir apparent. In 2012 we put in a formal succession plan for Daniella to become CEO in 2017. Today we are pleased to announce her promotion to CEO and Mark’s move to executive chairman,” Perry said. “Mark has provided excellent leadership and vision in his time as CEO. Throughout that period, Mark has had Daniella run every part of Barneys. We have had a great partnership at the top of the organisation and I am confident that our partnership, as well as Mark’s long term commitment to Barneys and our board of directors, will continue. With Daniella serving as CEO, we have the best leadership in the industry.”
While the changeover was widely expected across the industry for several years, what the Barneys team might not have predicted are the current macro challenges facing multi-brand retailers. In February 2016, during an exclusive sit down with BoF on the eve of the opening of its downtown New York location, Vitale and Lee outlined plans for the well-loved retailer, which, since the beginning of their tenure, have included a major interiors revamp, a discontinuation of the contemporary “Co-op” concept, and an overall re-configuration of the store’s merchandising approach. “Every year, we’ve hit a new record in terms of revenue,” Lee said at the time. “Obviously, we would have loved for more growth than low single digits, but we had record gross margins. That speaks to the fact that we’re really trying to stay out of discount and promotion. The focus, for us, is luxury and surprise.”
Vitale seems primed for the task: “There is no other place like Barneys and I look forward to driving our continued success.”