Shakeup at Lillian Vernon Parent

Change is in the air at Direct Holdings Worldwide, the parent company of White Plains, NY-based gifts and decor mailer Lillian Vernon Corp. and books and music merchant Time Life.

For starters, Richard Bennet has joined Direct Holdings Worldwide as president/CEO, responsible for the Time Life and Lillian Vernon brands. Jonathan Shapiro, president of Lillian Vernon; Hakan Lindskog, managing director of Time Life; Iain McConnachie, managing director of Direct Entertainment UK; and Rob Hardy, managing director of Time Life South Pacific, all report to Bennet, formerly a vice chairman of May Department Stores.

Strauss Zelnick was serving as interim CEO since July 2004, and he remains as chairman of the board.

What’s more, Alyce Goodman, executive vice president in charge of merchandise and creative at Lillian Vernon since August 2003, has resigned. Goodman helped to tweak its catalog, rework its Website, and even unveil a new logo. The company has promoted Debra Finn to vice president of merchandising. Finn started with Lillian Vernon in September 2003 as general merchandise manager.

According to a spokesperson, “The Lillian Vernon business continues to be strong, and the company is poised for further growth. To improve the efficiency of the business and continue to provide greater value to our customers we have strategically realigned several departments with the company, which resulted in the loss of several positions. Direct Holdings Worldwide employs more than 1,400 year-round and more than 4,500 people during the Christmas season. This restructuring affects less than one percent of our total yearly staff.”

According to several sources who wished not to be identified, Lillian Vernon sales were sagging even before a private equity fund managed by New York-based Ripplewood Holdings and New York-based media management firm ZelnickMedia bought the company in April 2003. Sales went from a high of $275.2 million in 2000 to $238 million in fiscal 2003, its last year as a publicly traded company.

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