David Chamberlain will retire as chairman and chief executive officer of The Stride Rite Corp later this year, and the firm has retained Spencer Stuart to assist in its review of internal and external candidates to succeed him.

Chamberlain will retain his current post until a successor has replaced him and will remain on the board after his retirement.

The 63-year-old CEO has held his current post since he joined the company in late 1999. Prior to that, he was with Genesco, where he served as chairman, president and CEO from 1994 to 1996 and as chairman from 1996 until his departure for Stride Rite.

Summarising his seven years at the firm's helm, Chamberlain said: "We have strengthened Stride Rite's existing portfolio of nationally recognised footwear brands and significantly expanded our portfolio with the acquisitions of Saucony and Robeez."

He added that he intends "to work closely with the board over the coming months to help identify, select and successfully integrate a new CEO."

Frank Mori, lead independent director of the Lexington, Massachusetts-based footwear firm, commented that Chamberlain "has guided the company exceptionally well through a period of significant development and we are confident that he is leaving Stride Rite with the right strategy and team in place to ensure the company's continued success.

"The search to identify a new CEO is well underway and we will work diligently to bring the process to a successful conclusion."

In addition to Saucony and Robeez, Stride Rite's assortment of brands includes Keds, Sperry Top-Sider and Grasshoppers. In the fiscal year ended last 1 December, the company had net income of US$34.3m on sales of $706.8m.

By Arnold J Karr.