St. John CEO Leaving in Early November

After a little more than one year on the job, Geoffroy van Raemdonck is stepping down as the chief executive of St. John, the high-end knitwear company based in Irvine, Calif.

Temporarily taking over the role of CEO will be Bernd Beetz, who is currently the executive chairman of the board of the company he partially owns. A search for a new chief executive will start immediately. Van Raemdonck’s departure is effective Nov. 6.

“We have made tremendous progress to further strengthen this iconic brand and, on behalf of the board, wish Geoffroy the best in his future endeavors,” Beetz said. “The business remains well capitalized and positioned as we continue to execute our global expansion strategy.”

Beetz, who joined the company in 2013, hired van Raemdonck from Louis Vuitton, where he was president, South Europe, based in Milan. The Louis Vuitton executive succeeded Glenn McMahon, who held the chief executive position for six years.

Beetz, who was chief executive of Coty Inc. for 11 years, grew the beauty company’s revenues from $1.3 billion to $4.7 billion and expanded the company’s presence to 135 countries. Beetz left Coty to invest in St. John along with Chinese conglomerate Fosun International. Vestar Capital Partners still owns a majority share.

Recently, Beetz was named to the board of directors of Quiksilver, a surfwear brand based in Huntington Beach, Calif.

St. John, which employs 2,500 people, manufactures the majority of its clothing collection in its Irvine facility, where scores of knitting machines are located.

The company was founded in 1962 by Bob and Marie Gray, a former model. She started out knitting a shift dress for herself and then expanded to knit suits and other items to capture a well-to-do customer who didn’t mind paying $2,000 to $2,500 for an outfit. About two-thirds of the collection is daywear and the rest is eveningwear. Marie Gray is still on the company’s board. Bob Gray died in 2012.

While 80 percent of the company’s sales are still in the United States, St. John has been eying China and other Asian countries as a bright frontier for expansion. St. John has 24 company-owned boutiques and is sold in luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.