Dale, Birkins step up at WPS

Marvin Lazaro, October 12, 2001

Hoping to provide key customers with more responsive service by building more comprehensive business units, WestPoint Stevens announced sweeping changes to its senior management team.

Bob Dale and Art Birkins now assume the top levels of responsibility for the major mill's bedding and bath businesses, with Dale on the fashion side and Birkins working basics. The moves are designed to improve WestPoint's strategic positioning within the industry while helping it to improve its focus.

Effective immediately, the changes were made by president/coo Chip Fontenot, who cited the need for WestPoint to further customer's goals.

"We will focus on building specific business units to enhance service for our key customers and establishing accountability, profit and loss responsibility, at every level," Fontenot said. "In today's business environment, we must know our customers, and their goals intimately, and become an integral means of achieving these goals. We have to be the supplier that gives them the product and service absolutely necessary to their success.

Reporting directly to Fontenot will be Dale and Birkins. Dale assumes the newly created post of president, Bed and Bath division while Birkins, who came to WestPoint in May as senior vp of basic bedding, has been named to the new title of president, Basic Bedding division. Dale joined WestPoint in April as senior vp of sales and marketing.

Lanny Bledsoe will remain in his post of senior vp, Bed and Bath manufacturing as will Dupuy Sears, cfo/senior vp; Linda Kinkler, senior vp, Ralph Lauren Home; William Walker, senior vp, sourcing; and Michael Velsmid, corporate senior vp and president of retail stores. Velsmid also remains as head of WestPoint's international operations.

Reporting to Dale and working out of New York will be Gregory Tarver, named to the new position of senior vp, bath, and Joan Amberg, senior vp of bed. Joining them and also reporting to Dale will be Kathleen Cwirko, senior vp of marketing services, and Ray Yerg, vp of Valueline.

The new Basic Bedding division, formed as a result of the acquisitions of Chatham Blankets and Liebhardt Inc., will include Vellux operations. David England will report to Birkins in the newly created post of vp of manufacturing for the division. Alan Kennedy, vp of merchandising; Scott Howard, vp of sales; and Tom Burke, vp of business operations, will report to Birkins as well.

"This structure will enable us to enhance our market strengths and to maximize our organizational skills," Fontenot said. "As we focus on the development of our business units, we will create experts on each of our key accounts. We will also become more familiar with our competitors' environments. And from this analysis, we will offer value to our accounts that's unrivaled by anyone else in the industry.

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