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Chief executive to leave Lee Cooper

Lee Cooper chief executive Ajay Khaitan, who acquired the business from Matalan in 2005, is to step down next week.

Khaitan snapped up Lee Cooper for £30.5 million and installed himself to run the business as principal founder of Emerisque Capital, the investment vehicle that bought the UK denim brand.

He will now hand over the reins to chief financial officer Scott Pinfield while the business recruits a replacement, which is expected to be announced in the next month.

Khaitan said Lee Cooper was now in a position to develop its international expansion strategy. As Emerisque chief executive, Khaitan plans to focus on new investment opportunities for the venture capitalist firm, looking at underperforming mid-market fashion brands.

Lee Cooper plans to have 500 stores and shop-in-shops in Asia by 2009, and has already earmarked 120 outlets in China, 150 in India and 100 in Indonesia.

It has also acquired an Indonesian licensee, which is expected to contribute 15% to 20% of revenues in the next financial year, and has teamed up with multi-channel retail giant Pantaloon in India and clothing retailer and manufacturer Ting Group in China on joint ventures.

Since acquiring Lee Cooper, Khaitan claimed profits had trebled, but would not give figures for 2005. EBITDA at the brand stood at about £4.2m.

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