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Service Merchandise Names CEO

January 12, 1999

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (AP) _ Service Merchandise Co. has brought in a turnaround specialist to run the struggling jewelry and home products chain that once was a profitable catalog showroom retailer.

Bettina M. Whyte was named Monday as interim chief executive officer. She replaces Gary M. Witkin, whose resignation as president and chief executive officer was announced Friday.

Whyte is a principal of Jay Alix & Associates, a Southfield, Mich.-company that helps underperforming companies with strategic repositioning, operational turnarounds, business development strategies and debt restructuring.

``Her experience and expertise will play a pivotal role in returning Service Merchandise to profitability,″ said chairman Raymond Zimmerman.

Company profits and stock prices continued to tumble last year, despite a massive restructuring that included narrowing its product offerings to jewelry, housewares and furnishings and shifting from warehouse distribution to off-the-shelf sales.

The company’s catalog showroom thrived into the 1980s but it was hurt by the rise of discounters like Wal-Mart and by other changes in the retail industry.

Service Merchandise operates 347 stores in 34 states.

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