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Executive shuffling starts at Bear Creek

Wasserstein & Co. has appointed new leaders to Bear Creek Corp.'s helm just days after buying the Medford company.

The New York-based private equity investor announced Tuesday that Bill Williams will replace Chief Executive Officer and President Nancy Tait, who will retire on July 2. Wasserstein executive Steve O'Connell will become chief financial officer and chief administrative officer for Bear Creek, succeeding John Dailey, who is also retiring.

Bear Creek spokesman Bill Ihle said Williams and Tait were inaccessible Tuesday.

Williams returns to a role he held from 1988 until November 2000, when he became chief operating officer of Yamanouchi Consumer Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif., Bear Creek's former parent company.

Prior to joining Bear Creek, he was with Dallas-based Neiman Marcus for 18 years in the retailer's mail order, stores, merchandising and advertising divisions.

— While I look forward to rejoining the Bear Creek team, Nancy will be greatly missed Williams said in a press statement. She has provided excellent leadership and direction for the company.

Tait joined Bear Creek in 1987 after working for Eddie Bauer Inc. She was named executive vice president for sales and marketing in 1996 before becoming chief marketing officer in March 2000.

I have a first-rate team to carry on the business, and I will depart knowing it is in excellent hands, Tait said in a faxed statement.

O'Connell is the first senior Wasserstein executive to be named to the Bear Creek management team. He has been a managing director for Wasserstein and specializes in consumer products and food investments. He joined Wasserstein in 1997 and led the company's investments in gourmet cookware brand All-Clad Holdings and super-premium juice brand Odwalla.

He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration at Princeton and an MBA from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

Dailey has been executive vice president and chief financial officer since January 2003. He joined Bear Creek in 1989 as senior vice president for customer service and was chief information officer. He's also held roles as senior vice president of marketing services and senior vice president of financial administration.

We have grown the company considerably since I started, Dailey said in a press release, and I know it will continue to prosper.

An Atlanta consultant familiar with Wasserstein's operations, said Tuesday's announcements don't necessarily signal that a house-cleaning was in the offing.

From time to time, if you have an acquisition take place when a company is having an extended round of problems, you would see a turnover in the management ranks, but you couldn't attribute these changes to that kind of situation, said Todd Barr, vice president of retail and direct marketing services for consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail