Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Ex-Mercantile CEO joins Federated

Nichols new president of Lazarus division

By Lisa Biank Fasig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It might not mean Moonlight Madness at Lazarus, but a little bit of old Mercantile Stores Co. has returned to Cincinnati, and through an unlikely source — its former rival Federated Department Stores.

        David Nichols, chief executive of Mercantile Stores until its takeover in 1998, on Monday became president and chief operating officer of the Rich's-Lazarus-Goldsmith's division in Atlanta. He succeeds Edwin Holman, who in June was promoted to president of Bloomingdale's.

        The position in a way returns Mr. Nichols to the Cincinnati retail scene, where he spent more than 20 combined years working for Mercantile. As second-in-command of the 74-store RLG division, he'll help oversee operations of all local Lazarus stores.

        “I have a great deal of respect for the Rich's-Lazarus-Goldsmith's divisions,” Mr. Nichols told workers Monday at RLG's headquarters. “It's one of the strongest retail divisions in the country.”

        Mr. Nichols, 58, also is in the unique position of working shoulder to shoulder with those he competed against for decades.

        Federated wanted Mr. Nichols because he is familiar with several RLG markets and customers. His ties to Cincinnati are an added bonus, Federated vice president Carol Sanger said.

        “It's just such a natural fit for this division at this particular time,” she said. “He was very successful, and he knows these markets very well, and that was a plus.”

        At RLG, Mr. Nichols will team with chairman and CEO Arnold Orlick and keep close contact with Federated chief executive James Zimmerman.

        In a statement, Mr. Zimmerman called Mr. Nichols “a tough, focused competitor.”

        “Dave brings with him a wealth of retail experience, proven leadership ability and a unique familiarity with the important RLG market,” he said.

        Mr. Nichols in July resigned as chairman of Flooring America in Kennesaw, Ga., which he started in January.

        Mr. Nichols is at heart a department store merchant. He spent his first 35 profes sional years at Mercantile, moving through the ranks from department manager to CEO in 1992.

        For most of those years, he was in Cincinnati. He and his family will stay in Cincinnati and take an apartment in Atlanta.

        Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard's dismissed Mr. Nichols from 84-year-old Mercantile on Aug. 13, 1998, when it took over.

        The new position not only gives him a chance to work with an old rival, it gives him the opportunity to compete against another.

        “My goal is to build on the strong base that has already been established,” Mr. Nichols told RLG workers Monday. “And to work with Arnie (Orlick) to continue to build that on that strength.”


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