Another Day in the Life of Spiegel: CEO Quits

He was supposed to right the wrongs of troubled Spiegel Group. But less than two years after becoming president/CEO/vice chairman of the multititle mailer, Martin Zaepfel resigned on Feb. 28, effective March 1. He leaves behind a company that’s not only hemorrhaging financially, but is also under a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation.

Spiegel’s majority owner, Germany’s Otto family, transferred Zaepfel to Spiegel in July 2001. Until then he had been deputy chairman/director of marketing and advertising of the Hamburg, Germany-based Otto direct marketing empire.

The Downers Grove, IL-based company, which is terming Zaepfel’s departure a “retirement,” has already hired William Kosturos, a managing director at turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal, as “chief restructuring officer,” also serving as interim CEO, replacing Zaepfel.

Spiegel reported earlier in the week that it’s under an SEC investigation due to its financial statements. In an 8-K report released on Feb. 26, the company said it may not have sufficient funds to continue operating in the near future due to myriad of problems with its credit card business.

Any connection to Zaepfel’s sudden announcement? “Martin made a decision, and we have an obligation to report it,” says Spiegel spokesperson Debbie Koopman. “He’s retiring and has not yet decided what he’ll do next. But he has a great depth of business experience and is multilingual.” She says a possible return to Otto in his home country of Germany “is not in his plan at this time.”

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