Christopher & Banks CFO Changes Ranks; Successor Hired

Michael Lyftogt, who has served as CFO since February 2011, will return to his previous role as chief accounting officer-and Peter Michielutti, who's now CFO at CSM Corporation, will succeed him.

Struggling women's apparel retailer Christopher & Banks Corporation is shaking up its leadership team yet again.

The Plymouth-based company said Tuesday that Michael Lyftogt, who has served as chief financial officer (CFO) since February 2011, will return to his previous role as chief accounting officer.

Meanwhile, Peter Michielutti will succeed Lyftogt as CFO. Michielutti comes to Christopher & Banks from Minneapolis-based real estate development and management firm CSM Corporation, where he serves as CFO and senior vice president.

Both of the leadership transitions will take effect Monday. According to a Tuesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Lyftogt's compensation will not change in conjunction with his change of posts. Regulatory filings show that his base salary was boosted to $250,000 when he became CFO in February 2011. Michielutti's base salary, by contrast, will total $350,000, according to Tuesday's filing.

According to Christopher & Banks, Michielutti brings more than two decades of financial leadership experience. He previously served as CFO at Whitehall Jewelers, Wilsons Leather, and Fingerhut-and he was a retail consultant at Prentice Capital.

“Pete and I have worked together in the past, and he is an experienced chief financial officer with a strong retail background as well as extensive operations experience,” President and CEO Joel Waller said in a statement.

Waller himself joined Christopher & Banks as president just four months ago and took on the additional role of CEO in February after former CEO Larry Barenbaum abruptly resigned following a disappointing fourth quarter. A search for a new permanent chief executive is now underway.

Another top leader also left the company recently. Christopher & Banks said in February that Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager Jules Rouse had departed.

For the quarter that ended January 28, which included the holiday season, Christopher & Banks reported a net loss of $31.7 million. Same-store sales-sales open for at least a year and an industry barometer-fell 14 percent during the period.

To boost sales this year, the company plans to slash base prices, and next fall's product lines will be priced about 20 percent lower than last year's, Waller said during a March conference call.

Christopher & Banks in November announced plans to close 100 stores, cut between 800 and 1,000 jobs, and restructure some of its existing operations by consolidating multiple brands into dual-format stores.

It now operates a total of 672 stores in 44 states, including 396 Christopher & Banks stores, 187 plus-size clothing CJ Banks stores, 64 dual-format stores, and 25 outlet stores.