Vera Bradley Names Former Saks Exec as CEO

Handbag company Vera Bradley (NASDAQ: VRA ) has named Robert Wallstrom, a former Saks Fifth Avenue (NYSE: SKS) executive, as its next CEO and president. Wallstrom succeeds Mike Ray, who is retiring, and will start his new role next Monday, Nov. 11. Ray, who had served as CEO since 2007, will stay on as an advisor for "a brief time period" to smoothly effect the transition, the company said in a statement. 

Wallstrom, 47, most recently served as president of Saks' OFF Fifth division. During his time there, the division increased sales by 50 percent and profitability by 100 percent, according to Vera Bradley's statement. The retailer also expanded to 71 stores from 40. Before joining Saks, Wallstrom held a variety of positions at Macy's Inc. (NYSE: M) from 1987 to 1995.

"Rob developed and implemented a strategic plan that repositioned the division as a growth engine, propelling Saks to a market leading position," said John Kyees, Vera Bradley's lead independent director.

Wallstrom told Women's Wear Daily he is excited about his new role at Vera Bradley, a company with "one of the strongest affinities in the handbag market." He also stated that his new post is not connected to Hudson's Bay Co.'s acquisition of Saks Inc.

An SEC filing submitted by Vera Bradley notes that Walstrom's base salary will be $750,000 per year. He will also be eligible for bonuses and stock options.

Vera Bradley shares were up 37 cents to close Tuesday at $23.12. The stock is down about 9% so far this year.

For more see:
This Women's Wear Daily article
This Wall Street Journal article

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