An Australian real estate development firm that has been buying up retail chains across America, including the tony Bonwit Teller stores, has named a veteran U.S. retailer to head its American operations.
Michael J. Babcock, 46, was named president and chief executive of New York-based Hooker Retail USA, a division of Hooker Corp., which has amassed an $800-million retail empire in six months. In addition to the Bonwit Teller chain, Hooker Corp. owns B. Altman and Merksamer Jewelers. Before joining Hooker as president and CEO of Bonwit, Babcock held the same titles at Filene's, a unit of Federated Department Stores. Previously he was chairman of G. Fox & Co. in Hartford, Conn., a division of May Department Stores. He was senior vice president at May Co. California from 1974 to 1976.
Babcock, who also was named a director of Hooker, reports to George Herscu, chairman and controlling shareholder of the Australian parent company.
The company's move into the United States began in June, 1986, with the purchase of 80% of Merksamer, a California-based jewelry store chain. Last August, Hooker acquired Bonwit, which closed its Beverly Hills and Palm Springs stores in 1986. Hooker plans to expand the 13-store chain.