Venator Group, which operates the Foot Locker and Champs Sports retail chains, named Matthew Serra president and chief executive after Dale Hilpert resigned to join Williams-Sonoma, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The company also said J. Carter Bacot, a board member since 1993, would serve as non-executive chairman. Mr Serra currently serves as Venator's president and chief operating officer. He joined Venator in 1998 and helped shore up the retailer's athletic business, the focus of Venator's business today.

Venator has had a turbulent ride during recent years after it changed its name from Woolworth Corp in 1998. It sold off a huge chunk of its holdings and watched its stock price fall from a high of nearly $30 in 1998 to below $5 in 1999. But in recent months its stock has rebounded.

Mr Hilpert became Venator's chief executive in August 1999 and was later named chairman. At Williams-Sonoma, San Francisco, Mr. Hilpert will serve as chief executive. Howard Lester, 65, Williams-Sonoma's current chairman and CEO, will continue as chairman of the home-products retailer and remain involved in the company's daily operations through the end of this year.

Mr. Hilpert will assume his position at Williams-Sonoma on March 3. The new positions for both Mr. Serra and Mr. Bacot, 68, will take effect on March 4.