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Kelly Gray to Succeed Dad as CEO of St. John Knits

October 15, 2002|Leslie Earnest | Times Staff Writer

Kelly Gray, co-president and signature model of upscale clothier St. John Knits International Inc., will become co-chief executive after the retirement of her father and company founder, Robert E. Gray, the firm said Monday.

In a statement, 76-year-old Robert Gray said he also was stepping down as chairman of the board. He will be succeeded by Jim Kelley, managing director of Vestar Capital Partners, which is St. John's majority stockholder.

Kelly Gray, 36, will share the CEO title with Bruce Fetter, who also is the Irvine company's chief operating officer. The pair have been co-presidents since last October. Kelly Gray also is the company's creative director.

The changes will take effect next month, the statement said. Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Co-founder Marie Gray, 66, will remain head designer of privately held St. John Knits.

This is the second time that Robert Gray has stepped down from the chief executive post. Last year, he was briefly succeeded by former Neiman Marcus executive H.W. Mullins, the first outsider to head the firm. When Mullins resigned after eight months on the job, Gray took back the post.

Kelly Gray's ascent within St. John's management was questioned by some during the six years St. John was publicly held. When she was appointed president in 1996 at age 29, the company's stock lost 7.5% of its value in one day.

But as she continued to gain experience in the job, admirers said she was primed for the higher post.

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