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Steve Russo resigns as Southerland Bedding CEO

Will restart consulting business

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bedding veteran Steve Russo has resigned as CEO from Southerland to pursue other interests, Southerland President Bryan Smith said.

"Steve was a good friend and well respected by me and our staff," Smith told Furniture/Today. "We wish Steve the best in his future endeavors."

Smith said a business model developed by Russo and David Corbin, who helped lead an Employee Stock Ownership Plan acquisition of the company in 2010, did not meet expectations, leading to the departures of Corbin, who left in 2011, and Russo.

"At the root of the plan was utilizing Southerland as the platform manufacturer," Smith said. "Southerland, who was and is a low cost producer of quality products, was the perfect manufacturer to utilize as their producer of consumer branded products. The efforts to institute their business model did not meet theirs nor Southerland's expectations and unfortunately resulted in both leaving the company. However, Southerland has remained grounded in its tenets and is committed to provide high quality sleep systems for the best value in the marketplace."

Earlier this year Russo introduced a Sharper Image branded line produced by Southerland at the Las Vegas Market. That line targeted high-end price points.

Smith said that in Russo's absence, Southerland is being led by him and "our team of knowledgeable executives," which includes Barry Elkins, chief financial officer Leo Echeverria, vice president of operations, and Tim Tyler, vice president of product development.

Smith also said that throughout Southerland's history, and in the 17 years that he has been with the company, "Southerland has committed to provide the best value to its customers by building a product of the highest quality. We will continue that focus. If we fail to meet that commitment to customers, employees, and partners, we will ‘make it right.'"

He added that Southerland "will continue to pursue opportunities to sell luxury and specialty bedding products, including Sharper Image, as long as the attributes of such opportunities meet the tenets of high quality and value to which we are committed."

Russo described Southerland as "a solid independent bedding company, with loyal employees, suppliers and many loyal customers," and said the business "has grown nicely over the past three years."

But he said that he concluded the revised business model he set out to achieve there was not going to be realized. "Southerland's DNA is that of a promotional bedding company, and I was not able to overcome the obstacles to transform it," he said.

Russo also said he believes that Southerland needs to focus on its core business and said that Bryan Smith "is the right man for the job" at Southerland.

He said that he expects to restart his consulting business and determine by early next year his future professional direction.

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