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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 05:37 GMT
Troubled Levi's seeks rescue plan
Levi jeans
Levi Strauss's chief financial officer has announced his departure, as the jeans maker searches for a strategy to turn its fortunes around.

Bill Chiasson is replaced by Jim Fogarty, a management consultant, who investors hope will lead a rethink.

Levi Strauss recently warned that full-year sales would drop by up to 7%, amid concerns that debt is ballooning.

The firm has struggled in the face of intense competition from more youth-oriented brands.

"They realised everything they have tried has been to no avail," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Consulting Group, "so it's time to bring in some fresh blood."

Seeking assistance

Mr Fogarty's consulting firm, Alvarez & Marsal, is to work with Levi Strauss on a turnaround plan.

Bill Chiasson
Mr Chiasson failed to turn around Levi's finances
Alvarez & Marsal specialises in distressed companies, and Mr Fogarty was previously chief financial officer at Warnaco Group, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February.

Levi Strauss's net debt is estimated to approach $2.2bn by the end of the year.

The firm has already made strenuous efforts to revive its business, including closing North American factories, shedding thousands of jobs and repeatedly tinkering with its product range.

But its reputation has been tarnished not only by the failure to recapture its past glory, but also by errors in 1998-1999 tax returns and allegations of false accounting levelled by two former tax managers in a lawsuit.

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