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Stussy Inc. President to Step Down

Apparel: O.C. surf wear designer will remain as consultant to business he founded 10 years ago.

January 10, 1996|DON LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — Tired of the fast lane, surf wear designer Shawn Stussy is stepping down as president of the highly successful company he founded a decade ago.

Stussy, 41, an Orange County surfer who turned his surfboard design hobby into a clothing business with annual revenue of $35 million, will remain as a consultant to Stussy Inc., said Vice President and co-owner Frank Sinatra Jr.

Sinatra (no relation to the singer) downplayed Stussy's departure, saying Stussy had been reducing his day-to-day involvement with the Irvine-based company in recent months.

"This is not a hostile thing," said Sinatra, an accountant who surfed with Stussy and teamed up with him in 1985. Sinatra said Stussy wanted to spend more time with his wife and son and at their home in Hawaii.

"Fashion is still very important to him. He still wants to be involved," Sinatra said. "He's just tired of the day-to-day grind."

Stussy, who lives in south Orange County, declined to be interviewed.

Sinatra, 42, who owns half the company, would not comment on whether he would buy out Stussy's 50% stake. Stussy will continue to own and operate two boutiques, in New York and Los Angeles, whose customers have included celebrities such as Billy Idol and Anjelica Huston.

Sinatra said he will most likely assume the title of president and that Stussy, under an employment contract to be signed this month, will oversee aspects of the company's image. Sinatra said he expects no major changes to the business.

The departure of Stussy, whose distinctive retro looks have appealed to young adults worldwide, came as little surprise to those in the surf wear industry.

"I've been hearing rumors of it for a couple of months," said Paul Holmes, a former marketing executive at Hang Ten, a San Diego-based sportswear firm.

Holmes, who now operates a marketing and consulting business in Laguna Beach, said Stussy Inc. could continue to thrive without its creative founder.

"I think the brand is now too well-established to fall down like a house of cards," he said.

However, Alan G. Millstein, editor of Fashion Network Report in New York, said the departure of the founder and principal designer "always leaves a question of how healthy and happy the business is."

"For an entrepreneurial-driven fashion business," Millstein said, "it's always dangerous when the entrepreneur steps out or steps down."

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