Workplace

Historic jeans-maker to leave Kansas City headquarters for East Coast

Cars lined up on Oct. 22, 2014, at Lee Jeans in Merriam during a jeans trade-in event. Lee hoped to encourage residents to ditch their San Francisco-based Levi’s during the World Series against the San Francisco Giants and wear their hometown Lee Jeans in support of the Royals. Lee Jeans will be relocated to Greensboro, N.C., as part of a parent company shakeup.
Cars lined up on Oct. 22, 2014, at Lee Jeans in Merriam during a jeans trade-in event. Lee hoped to encourage residents to ditch their San Francisco-based Levi’s during the World Series against the San Francisco Giants and wear their hometown Lee Jeans in support of the Royals. Lee Jeans will be relocated to Greensboro, N.C., as part of a parent company shakeup. Special to the Star

Kansas City’s historic Lee Jeans is leaving for North Carolina as part of a reorganization and split by its parent company, VF Corp., the company announced Monday.

Lee Jeans, the 100-year-old denim manufacturer headquartered in Merriam, will move to Greensboro, N.C., joining Wrangler jeans as part of a spinoff from VF Corp., which will move its global headquarters from Greensboro to the Denver area. Lee, Wrangler and VF Corp.’s outlet ventures will make up another yet-unnamed company.

VF Corp.’s new Denver headquarters will house brands including The North Face, JanSport and Smartwool, which it said is “consistent with (the company’s) enhanced focus on the outdoor and active consumer.”

Steve Rendle, VF Corp.’s chairman, president and CEO, said in a release that the company is proud of its Greensboro roots and would remain committed to the community.

“Combined with the relocation of the Lee brand from Kansas City and the establishment of a major new public company with Greensboro headquarters, we expect that total VF and (new company) employment in the area will remain at current levels,” Rendle said.

Vanessa McCutchen, director of corporate communications for VF Corp., said the company was still working through details regarding what would happen to the 130 Merriam-based Lee employees. It wasn’t clear whether they would relocate to Greensboro or otherwise remain with the company.

In the release, VF Corp. said it expected the new parent company for jeans and outlet brands would be a global denim leader and bring in more than $2.5 billion in revenue each year. The company expects to complete the spinoff in the first half of 2019.

According to the Lee’s website, Henry David Lee was a grocery wholesaler in Salina, Kan., and established cold storage and flour companies. He wasn’t satisfied with the work clothes he was able to get and opened his own factory. The company started manufacturing casual jeans in the 1950s.

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