Court OKs new leader for clothier


Richard P. Crystal flew from New York to Baltimore yesterday as a top executive of R. H. Macy & Co. On his return flight the same day, he was the new president and chief executive officer of Joppa-based Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc.

It took all of seven minutes in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Judge E. Stephen Derby to formally approve Mr. Crystal's contract with the financially troubled fashion retailer, a three-year package worth well in excess of $3 million, according to court documents.

There was no opposition from creditors, shareholders or others during yesterday's meeting. But there was one surprise: a $60,000 payment to release Mr. Crystal 20 days prior to the end of his contract with Federated Department Stores Inc., Macy's parent company.

The 50-year-old former Macy executive will become the fourth CEO in the past two years when he takes the helm of Merry-Go-Round Monday, three weeks earlier than the two parties had previously scheduled. "We wanted to get started as quickly as possible," Mr. Crystal said as he left the hearing.

The urgency of his arrival was underscored Thursday when the company, operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy since January 1994, released dismal June sales figures -- down $15 million, or 23 percent from the same month last year. The chain of 1,000 apparel stores geared toward teen-agers and young adults has not reported monthly same-storesales gains in more than a year.

Despite the daunting prospects, there was nothing yesterday to suggest concern by Mr. Crystal, while company attorney Roger Frankel made the case to hire the new CEO.

"There have not been many matters in which all stakeholders agree. . . . Mr. Crystal is one of them," the lawyer said as Mr. Crystal, flanked by his personal attorney, sat impassively in the courtroom.

Mr. Crystal, selected because of his fashion sense and decades of retail experience, succeeds Thomas C. Shull, chairman and CEO, and James Kenney, president and chief operating officer, whose crisis-management firm, Meridian Ventures, was paid a $95,000 monthly fee for running the company on an interim basis since mid-January.

Mr. Crystal served as chairman of Macy's product development division, where he was responsible forall private-label product development worldwide. He also served as chairman and CEO of Macy's specialty stores division, which included Aeropostale and Charter Club.

Of his new job, he said, "Quite happy, quite excited, I can't wait to get started."

When he flies back to Baltimore tomorrow, he faces the task of turning around a company that lost $19.2 million for the first quarter ended April 29 and $186.3 million for the year ended Jan. 28.

"We got what we wanted," Mr. Frankel said. ". . .There's a lot to learn, but he's got the right experience."

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