U.S. News

Liz Claiborne Needed Focus; Now Needs New Name: CEO

Liz Claiborne needed to be refocused, even at the cost of selling its namesake clothing line, CEO William McComb told CNBC Friday.

JC Penney

"We hate to see the brand leave our stable," he said of the clothing line co-founded in 1976 by Liz Claiborne. But he said the company's success spawned three very strong brands in Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand Jeans and Kate Spade, which it plans to retain.

Last week Liz Claiborne said it is selling its legacy brand to JP Penney , which had sold Liz clothing under exclusive license. Liz Claiborne also plans to sell its Monet, Kensie, Mexx and Dana Buchman lines.

"The company had a significant amount of leverage, and the market told us over and over and over the leverage put a huge discount on our stock," McComb said. Since Liz had been one of Penney's best-selling lines and wanted to buy the company "it was time…for us to complete the sale."

Liz Claiborne's Makeover

Even before the recession, he said, the company "got into some pretty big trouble" being overdistributed and not having a more focused distribution network.

"With the consolidation we’ve seen in the department store class of trade over the last 20 years, ultimately what happened was each of these department stores want and need labels that will drive customers exclusively to their store," he said.  "We were losing when we were spread across a broad matrix."

The next order of business is a new name, which McComb said will be announced within the next 12 months, but he doesn't expect it will be named after any of its remaining three brands.