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WPS responds strongly to Meek exit with Sears

Don Hogsett -- Home Textiles Today, April 23, 2001

ATLANTA — Acting rapidly to fill the void created by the sudden resignation earlier this month of David Meek, textiles giant WestPoint Stevens has named industry veteran Lester Dupuy Sears as its new senior vp and cfo.

The move promises to be a comfortable and easy fit since Sears is well versed in the ways of the home textiles arena, where he's worked in various posts for more than 15 years.

Increasing the comfort level even further, Sears has worked in the past with Chip Fontenot, WestPoint's new president and coo, first at Springs Industries and later at Perfect Fit Industries, where he was also an equity partner. As WestPoint's top financial executive, Sears reports to Fontenot. He will be headquartered in West Point, GA.

"In the recruitment of Mr. Sears, we were focused on his extensive skills and proven track record in working capital management, financial-system structuring and acquisitions," said Fontenot. "He has more than 25 years' experience and a keen understanding of how we can best continue to implement the company's strategy to enhance shareholder value, our eight-point plan."

The rapid hiring of Sears should go a long way to ease the concerns of Wall Street analysts and investors rattled by the abrupt resignation of the highly respected Meek after less than 18 months on the job.

Meek was originally brought on board by chairman and ceo Holcombe Green Jr., majority owner of WestPoint, to help sell the company. And when a buyer couldn't be found, Meek helped to orchestrate an unsuccessful effort to take the company private. During that turbulent period for both the company and a broadly battered American textiles industry, Meek earned the respect of Wall Street analysts and investors as a savvy financial engineer and a strong corporate leader, a man often described as "the change-maker" at WestPoint.

Sears, the industry veteran who now succeeds Meek, was most recently executive vp and cfo for Glenoit Corp., a company he joined in 1996. Earlier, he had worked since 1989 at Perfect Fit Industries, where he was also an equity partner. Before joining Perfect Fit, he had worked at Springs Industries as controller of the consumer products division. Before that, he had worked in finance, operations management and accounting posts with several other firms, starting in 1971.

Sears earned a BA degree in economics and an MBA in finance and operations form Wake Forest University. He did postgraduate study in accounting at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is a certified public accountant.

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