Published on .

June 18, 2001

By Richard Linnett

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- James Capon, president of the Levi's brand in the U.S., a unit of Levis Strauss & Co., resigned from the company late last week after less than two years at

the helm. He will be replaced by Robert Hanson, currently the president of the Levi's brand in Europe and the U.K.

Jeff Beckman, a Levi Strauss spokesman, confirmed the management shift, which was announced in an internal memo. Mr. Beckman said that Mr. Capon did not indicate why he was leaving the company. Mr. Capon, formerly president of the Dockers brand in the U.S., had been promoted to replace outgoing president Robert Holloway in November 1999.

"[Mr. Hanson] leads the brand," Mr. Beckman said of Mr. Hanson's current role. "He is the ultimate leader of the brand in terms of marketing and product development. He is the guy who set the pan-European strategic vision for the Levi's brand. He was the one who said we really need to reinvent the Levi's brand for younger consumers in Europe."

Mr. Beckman said Mr. Hanson was instrumental in creating Engineered Jeans, Levi's latest product. "It has become the standard for more fashion conscious, younger consumers in Europe."

Mr. Hanson's job will be handled by Joe Middleton, president of Levi Strauss in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Market share erosion
The jeanswear company has been suffering a serious erosion of market share in this country, and CEO Philip Marineau, who was formerly president-CEO of PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola North America division, has been attempting to turn the brand around.

True North Communications' FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, handles Levi Strauss' Dockers and Slates in the U.S. Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, is the agency for Levi's U.S. work. Both agencies have been struggling to connect the Levi's brand message with young consumers. Levi's Europe and UK advertising shop, Bcom3 Group's Bartle Bogle Hegarty, on the other hand, has put out successful advertising campaigns aimed at young consumers for Sta-Prest, featuring the popular Flat Eric character and, most recently, a campaign for Engineered Jeans.

No plans for review
Mr. Beckman said there were "no plans" for a review. "Right now, our plan is to bring Robert in here and get him integrated into the U.S. Levi's brand," he said.

Last year, a private tracking study from NPD Group indicated Levi's share of the men's jeans business in the U.S. has continued to drop, while its women's business was holding, with larger sizes outperforming the juniors business. Meanwhile, for the same period, VF Corp.'s Lee jeans posted double-digit share gains.

Also late last year, the Zandl Group, which tracks youth trends, asked a panel of 2,000 young people aged 13 to 24 to name their favorite jeans brands. Of males, only 11% named Levi's, down from 17% in 1999 and 36% in 1994.

According to Nelson Taylor Sofres' CMR, Levi's spent $112 million in measure media last year.

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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