While Destination Maternity continues its search for a permanent chief executive to execute a turnaround, it has named its second interim CEO in less than four months. Melissa Payner-Gregor, an independent director of the retailer, succeeds Allen Weinstein, who also had been an independent director before taking on the temporary CEO role. The company said Weinstein decided to step down for personal reasons.
Payner-Gregor will head a newly created “Office of the CEO” comprised of Ronald J. Masciantonio, EVP and Chief Administrative Officer; David Stern, EVP and Chief Financial Officer, and Shelley Liebsch, SVP of Merchandising and Design.
The CEO post has been open since the September 2017 exit of Anthony M. Romano, who joined Destination Maternity as chief executive in August 2014. Romano had forged an agreement in December 2016 to merge Destination Maternity with the French firm Orchestra Prémaman, a manufacturer and retailer of children’s clothing and child care products. The proposed deal fell apart last July due to “the challenges of satisfying applicable securities regulations in France and in the U.S.,” according to a joint statement issued by the companies.
Destination Maternity also announced it has retained Kirk Palmer Associates to lead the ongoing CEO search. The publicly traded company, based in Moorestown, N.J., posted a one-time charge of $3.1 million in its third-quarter for “management and organization changes” and costs related to the terminated merger.
Payner-Gregor, who has served on the Destination Maternity board of directors since August 2009, works as a consultant for several retail and e-Commerce companies. She previously held top leadership roles at Bluefly. She was named president in 2003 and took on the additional title of CEO in 2004, which she held until 2012. Prior to joining Bluefly, Payner-Gregor held top management positions with Spiegel Catalog and Chico’s.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in August 2017 Destination Maternity hired Berkeley Research Group, a retail-oriented consulting firm, to advise the company on “how to optimize our expense structure.”
The chain operates both freestanding stores and shops within such retailers as Macy’s, buybuy Baby and Boscov’s. Since 2012, it has downsized from 625 company-owned stores to 507 while cutting its store-within-a-store units by more than 50%, from 1,383 to 643. In recent years, Destination Maternity ended leased operations with Kohl’s, Sears and Gordmans, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2017 and subsequently closed almost half of its stores.