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Aaron to step down as Sherry-Lehmann chief

Michael Aaron announced today [Thursday] that he will retire as chairman of Sherry-Lehmann on 1 May.

Aaron said he will step down one day after becoming 68 and ’50 years and one day after I joined the company.’

Although New York is rich in superior wine emporiums, Sherry-Lehmann has long been perceived as the city’s flagship merchant by sophisticated consumers – local, national and international.

Aaron has reduced his majority holding in the corporation to 19% of the privately held shares.

At the end of an 11-year buyback arrangement, the corporation itself will own all of his shares, and the founding Aaron family will be out of the ownership picture.

Executive vice president Chris Adams, 42, will become the primary public representative of the US$50m a year company.

Adams, who joined in 1997, holds 25% of the stock. Shyda Gilmer, 36, the vice president, holds 25%, and Michael Yurch, 56, the president, owns 31%. They form the new management team.

Aaron said he would hold the title chairman emeritus and remain in the background as a consultant but that his primary interest was to find rewards in other personal pursuits that include his wife, Christine, an interior designer. No new chairman will be named.

Adams said that one possible long-term aspiration would be to open Sherry-Lehmann stores in other American cities. In the short term, he said, the shop has to adjust to an array of new conditions, including its new management structure, new location and expanding Internet sales.

In 2009 Sherry-Lehmann will be 75 years old. After selling the building it had occupied since 1948 on Madison Avenue and 61 Street, on the East Side, last September it moved to a busier, more-upscale midtown location, Park Avenue at 59th Street. It spent about $5.5m constructing and furnishing the new headquarters.

Business immediately increased, Adams said. ‘Walk-in traffic has gone up 20 to 30 percent.’ Additional sales personnel have been added and the store’s business hours have been expanded.

Michael Aaron’s father, Jack Aaron, founded the company in 1934.

Jack’s brother, Sam Aaron, joined in 1935. In 1990, Sam stepped down and Michael became the chairman.

The store began as Sherry Wine and Spirits, taking its name from its venue, the Louis Sherry Building, today an official Manhattan landmark. It became Sherry-Lehmann in 1965 after buying out a competitor, M. Lehmann.

Michael Aaron’s Sherry-Lehmann career began modestly. ‘When I was 6 or 7 years old,’ he said, ‘I handed pins to the window-dresser so he could put the signs on.’

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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