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Barney’s heir plans explosive storybook about retailer’s demise

ByKathleen Dupont

Sep 23, 2021

An heir to Barney’s fallen luxury empire plans to write an explosive all-encompassing book about the retail icon’s demise, sources say – and he’s pointing the finger at the rest of his family.

Bob Pressman — whose grandfather Barney Pressman founded the now-defunct chain in 1923 — is in talks with publishers to dish his aging mother and siblings in a sensational revelation that details the family’s excesses and how it takes control of the family. the company lost, The Post has learned.

According to an incendiary two-page proposal for the book obtained by The Post, Fred Pressman — famous in the 1960s for transforming his father’s men’s suit shop into a luxury mecca — was “a good and kind person” who “was very close with his parents” and who “worked 7 days a week”.

However, the proposal also goes on to claim that Fred Pressman “had a very long affair with a well-known Parisian lady. Fred set up a corporate office in Paris for Barney’s New York…which made the Paris affair easy and the frequent visits to France easy to justify.”

Fred Pressman’s wife Phyllis “was found out about the affair, but never told Fred to avoid any interruption to her glamorous lifestyle, or Fred’s cash flow would continue to flow to her,” the proposal claims.

Bob Pressman, who declined to comment on the proposal when The Post contacted him, “has been on these crazy stories for 50 years” and is “tired of hiding the truth about his family,” according to a source close to the situation stands. . He is 67 and is now semi-retired from Triton Equity Partners LLC — a retail investment firm, according to his LinkedIn page. He lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Fred Pressman, son of Barneys founder Barney Pressman, is said to be a nice, hard-working man, but one who had a long-term affair with a Parisian woman and opened a Barneys office in France to justify his frequent trips to the country, according to a new report. book proposal.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Phyllis Pressman — who recently listed the Hamptons beach house she and her late husband built 40 years ago for $52.5 million — will be a prime target of the book, according to the proposal. Fred Pressman died in July 1996 — six months after his sons Gene and Bob brought Barneys to bankruptcy court after an overly aggressive expansion. Since then, Bob has only had occasional contact with his mother, according to the source.

Fred is described as “a rich and stylish man” who “grew up in the upper echelons of Central Park West, dating society and WASP-y ladies in Manhattan.” But according to the book proposal, his mother “wanted him to marry a middle-class Jewish man.”

A ‘blind date’ brought Fred and Phyllis together

According to the proposal, Fred and Phyllis met “on a blind date in New York City” when Phyllis was 19 years old. They married a few months later and raised four children in a 28-room mansion in Purchase, NY, which had a pool, tennis court and live staff, the proposal says.

A black and white photo of Phyliss Pressman sitting with porcelain in the background
Phyllis Pressman, the author’s mother and Fred Pressman’s wife, seen in this 1993 photo, will be a prime target of the book, according to the book proposal.
Michael Schwartz/New York Post

The proposal goes on to claim that Phyllis “ran the Pressman household in Purchase like a dictatorship.” Reached out this week by The Post, 92-year-old Phyllis Pressman disputed the claims in a telephone interview.

Those include the proposal’s claim that she grew up in the Hewlett suburb of Long Island in the Five Towns. In fact, she says, she grew up in Cedarhurst and Lawrence. She also clarified that she was 20 years old when she and Fred got married.

“Fred was the love of my life,” Phyllis Pressman told The Post. “He was a very unique person.”

Gene Pressman dressed in a tuxedo standing next to a mannequin wearing a dress
The book claims that Bob Pressman’s older brother Gene Pressman’s lavish design for the Barneys New York flagship on Madison Avenue was more than $200 million over budget.
Getty Images

The book proposal also focuses on Bob Pressman’s older brother, Gene. The pair led Barneys as co-CEOs in the 1990s, with Robert overseeing finances and Gene taking on the more visible, glamorous roles as a face of the company, attending exclusive parties with fashion greats including Vogue- editor Anna Wintour.

“Gene was reckless with money and women,” the book proposal states, adding that he had a hard-partying lifestyle and was “notorious for hanging out at Studio 54 in Manhattan.”

On the business side, the book claims that Gene Pressman’s lavish design for the
The Barneys New York flagship on Madison Avenue ran more than $200 million over budget.

Shoppers look through men's suits and shoes at Barneys in the 1980s
Fred Pressman is credited with the famous technique of transforming his father’s menswear business into a luxury mecca.
New York Post

Subsequently, Barneys was forced into bankruptcy, the book proposal claims. “Gene didn’t care because he was living under the many delusions of his failed success and self-importance.”

An Expansion Plan Some Called Overly Aggressive

In addition to lavish spending, the press reports of Barney’s 1996 bankruptcy referred to an overly aggressive expansion plan and a strained relationship with a Japan-based business partner. In a statement to The Post, Gene Pressman fired back and denied the allegations of the book proposal.

“It’s sad that Bob has such a loose relationship with the truth, one of the many reasons our family is so disappointed in him,” Gene Pressman said. “Because of the love and support I’ve received from my family, I’ve been fortunate to live a life dedicated to supporting art, creating beautiful things and cultivating innovative ideas.”

Shoppers look at wares in Barneys
Barneys was an iconic source for luxury fashion before filing for bankruptcy.
Frank Leonardo/New York Post

Pressman’s older brother added: “As for Barneys, Bob conveniently forgets that he was in fact the co-CEO responsible for the financial stability of the company, a role in which he failed miserably by all measures.”

The book proposal, on the other hand, claims that Bob “was arguing with his family all the time when the Barneys New York Madison Avenue store was being built,” protesting the huge tab that was run over.

Sisters Nancy and Elizabeth File Lawsuits Against Bob

Three years after filing for bankruptcy in 1996, Bob was smitten with lawsuits from his sisters, Nancy Pressman-Dressler and Elizabeth Pressman-Neubardt, who accused him of defrauding $30 million, claiming he had taken more than his fair share of the company. in the reorganization. The sisters had worked as buyers for the company.

The exterior of the Barney's building in 1983
The iconic Barneys Building from 1983.
Robin Graubard/New York Post

“The Pressman sisters are trying to reinvent issues that have been thoroughly reviewed and resolved or dismissed in conjunction with the Barneys Inc. Chapter 11 case that was upheld by bankruptcy court more than six months ago,” Bob Pressman said in a statement at the time. . “They just don’t like that result,” he added.

A judge in New York awarded the sisters $11.3 million in 2002. Their brother appealed the verdict. According to one source, the book promises unreported details of more than three years of lawsuits that followed.

Nancy Pressman “was known for being very loud and cocky in public. They
stopped studying,” the book proposal reads. Liz Pressman “was the most spoiled and the youngest,” the proposal claims, adding that she loved “spending her father’s money.”

Nancy declined to comment. Liz did not respond to a request for comment.

As for Bob Pressman, the proposal says he was “known as the boring one because he didn’t like to party all night… He kept to himself and found the other three kids annoying, spoiled brats… Bob liked to say he was the ‘adopted’ because he felt like he came from another family.”

It’s not clear whether the book will address Bob Pressman’s recent headlines. In 2017, court papers revealed he was having a torrid affair with a 38-year-old woman he met at a resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Pressman alleged that North Carolina woman Anna Purcell left their $17,000-a-month rental home in Greenwich after suffering a stroke, forcing him to call 911 himself and take thousands of dollars from his wallet while he was in hospital. .

Purcell — who, according to Pressman, had accepted gifts, including a $127,300 Cartier engagement ring and a $40,000 for a Jeep Grand Cherokee — claimed in court papers that she didn’t know Pressman was married at the time. After Pressman dumped her, he claimed she was trying to extort him for more than $12 million, and threatened to tell his wife about the affair. Purcell’s attorney called Pressman’s allegations a “total fabrication.”

Purcell died in 2019, according to public documents, which did not disclose the cause of death.

Pressman’s book would be only the second to be written about his family and Barneys, who filed for bankruptcy for the second time in August 2019, liquidated his company and sold his brand to a licensor for $270 million. In 1999 William Morrow published “The Rise and Fall of the House of Barneys: A Family Tale of Chutzpah, Glory and Greed”, by Joshua Levine, but without the participation of the Pressman.

While the book is in its early stages, Pressman has been in contact with numerous publishers for the time being, according to the source. He is bracing for possible lawsuits to stop the publication, but “wants to get his story out there,” the source added.

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