Richard Cohen’s Next Stop: Aiding Robert Talbott

by MR Magazine Staff

NEW YORK – Richard Cohen, the former chief executive officer of Ermenegildo Zegna USA and St. John Knits, is returning to the menswear business as a special advisor to Robert Talbott Inc., the Carmel Valley, Calif.-based producer of better neckwear and apparel.

Cohen’s appointment follows the designation of Jerome Politzer, a lawyer who’s been associated with the company and the Talbott family for more than 20 years, as chief operating officer of the firm. The COO post was last held by Robb Talbott who succeeded his mother, Audrey Talbott, as CEO following her demise in 2004.

The firm was founded by Robert and Audrey Talbott in 1950 and has grown from its neckwear roots into shirts, accessories and women’s wear in recent years. It has distribution in better specialty stores and its own network of retail shops.

Cohen will help the firm establish strategies for expansion and also will assist Politzer as he learns the fine points of the apparel business. In addition to his legal work, Politzer is a certified public accountant who’s been involved in the agriculture business and has advised the Talbotts on matters concerning the Robert Talbott Vineyards, also in Carmel Valley.

Cohen has a rich apparel pedigree and has startled apparel industry observers with his moves in recent years. Well entrenched at Zegna, he left the firm in 2004 and then headed west to become CEO of St. John, a firm best known for women’s knitwear. Although aggressive in attempting to redefine St. John’s merchandising and marketing and steer the firm towards a younger customer, he left the company, which is controlled by Vestar Capital Partners, in April.

Reached in New York Thursday, John Haller, senior vice president of sales at Robert Talbott, told, “This company is being set to survive and thrive over the next 50 years and beyond. There are a lot of areas under discussion where Richard can be a huge help. Robb and Jerome are having talks about a lot of different areas and some big decisions about our future are being considered.”

One industry consultant who’s watched Cohen over the years said, “They have a good neckwear company with a great product and a nice franchise. Richard will be looking into ways of developing it beyond where it is right now.”

Haller said reports that Cohen had made an equity investment in the firm were untrue.