From Fire to Fry-o-lator

The CFO of Williams-Sonoma leaves for a sweeter deal at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Also: road weary; into the arms of strangers; Citi slicker; and more.

CFO John Tate, 50, is leaving San Francisco­ based Williams-Sonoma Inc. for a sweeter deal at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. in Winston- Salem, N.C.

“Most of us have been touched by this magical brand at some time in our lives,” said Tate in a press release. “The opportunity to participate with this team in creating a global brand with explosive growth prospects was irresistible.” The $200 million franchise went public last spring and expects to open 28 new stores this year. Tate will also be president of the company’s manufacturing and distribution divisions.

The timing of Tate’s departure from the $1.8 billion home-furnishings retailer coincided with a dismal pre-announcement that third-quarter earnings would come in at around 5 cents a share, down dramatically from First Call/Thompson Financial’s estimate of 18 cents a share.

“Williams-Sonoma has historically been known for cutting-edge merchandise and has never had a top-line issue,” says Ralph Jean, senior research analyst with First Union Securities. “Their problems have been related to managing the back end of the business, like inventory and expenses, which is related to senior management.” He notes that this is Williams-Sonoma’s second earnings “debacle” in Tate’s 18-month tenure. The company announced a 13 cents per share earnings miss for last year’s fourth quarter.

At Krispy Kreme, Tate replaces J. Paul Breitbach, 62, who is retiring after eight years. Sharon McCollam, previously VP of finance at Williams-Sonoma, will fill Tate’s role.

Road Weary

Just two months after former General Motors Corp. CFO J. Michael Losh told CFO he was retiring to see something of the world, Losh, 54, has announced a new direction. The much-traveled executive will become chairman of auto-parts manufacturer Masotech Inc., headquartered in Taylor, Mich.

So, what’s up at Ask Jeeves Inc.? The question-and-answer E-service firm has announced the resignation of CFO Tom Low. President Adam Klein will oversee financial operations until a successor is named.

Dow Jones & Co. received some surprising news of its own this month. Its highly touted CFO, Jerry Bailey, left suddenly for “unspecified family reasons.” The New York­ based operator of the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and other periodicals is conducting a search for Bailey’s successor.

Into the Arms of Strangers

It appears Cummins Inc. CFO Kiran Patel’s career needed fine-tuning. The 26-year Cummins veteran has left the Columbus, Ind.-based engine maker to join iMotors as finance chief. His replacement has not yet been named.

Donna Karan International has unveiled a new corporate lineup, with Joseph B. Parsons donning the newly created CFO/operations title. Parsons was previously chief financial and administrative officer at the fashion designer.

PeopleSoft Inc. has added a new body to its executive team. Kevin T. Parker, former SVP and CFO of Aspect Communications Corp., assumed the CFO spot at the Pleasanton, Calif.-based E-business applications provider. Predecessor Steve Hill was promoted to SVP of business development.

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