NEW YORK – Retailing’s loss is licensing’s gain.
Leonard Rothschild, one of the pioneers of the young men’s and contemporary retail markets, has sold his interest in the two Essex 5 stores and joined InGroup Licensing in the new position of executive vice president.
Rothschild will be a partner in the business and report to Steven Seidman, chairman. Initially, he will divide his time between InGroup’s New York offices and his current home in Chicago. He declined to disclose the identity of the buyers of Essex 5.
Prior to opening Essex 5, Rothschild, previously selected as one of MR’s “Top 100 for the Millennium,” co-founded Ringolevio Stores and earlier was president and chief executive officer of Lark Stores, which he acquired in 1977 and ultimately built into a 12-store Midwestern specialty store chain.
He began his career in the Carson Pirie Scott & Co. training program in the early 1970s at the age of 16. He later joined another now-defunct Chicago institution, Goldblatt’s. “I became Mr. Goldblatt’s assistant, but my wife and I became parents of triplets and I needed a raise,” he told MRketplace.com. “Mr. Goldblatt wouldn’t give me one, so I opened Legs & Ears Inc., which sold pants and record albums, in 1972.”
Seidman described Rothschild as “one of the most dynamic talents in the marketplace [who] possesses exceptional management skills and is definitely the right person to help InGroup continue to reach greater heights.”
The new EVP said he will work on developing new business for the company, including two brand representation deals on the verge of being signed, and also manage some of its existing client roster, which currently includes Ben Sherman, True Religion, Mudd and, most recently, Hummel. InGroup maintains offices in New York and London.
“I’ve been walking around with a smile on my face about this new opportunity,” he said, “a chance to jump on board with things and people I know. We’re involved with some of the best known and fastest growing names on the wholesale side of the business, but we’re also working with retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.”
Questioned about his approach to brand management, he noted that his philosophy as a licensing representative won’t be much different than it was during his long tenure as a retailer. “I look at a brand as a marathon race,” he said. “You can’t push too hard at mile 12 because you have to think about mile 20 and beyond. If there’s a mistake I’ve noticed over the years, it’s that brands don’t pick their partners – particularly their retail partners – well enough.”
Rothschild noted that, while it hasn’t done so to this point, InGroup also is in a position to buy brands and has a credit facility in place specifically for this purpose.
In addition to his entrepreneurial experience, Rothschild is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program who serves on the board of directors of the Fashion Institute of Technology Foundation.
He expects to keep a schedule similar to the one he’s been keeping for the last decades, he said, “except the next time I walk into a MAGIC show, I’ll be seeing opportunity, not people trying to sell me.”