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Although Eddie Bauer Inc., has been around for 85 years, it just hired its first general counsel: Shelley Milano. Milano, 48, joined the Redmond, Wash.-based apparel and home furnishings company in March as it was breaking free of Spiegel Inc., its debt-mired parent. Her first order of business has been preparing the company for its rebirth as Eddie Bauer Holdings. “The brand is very old,” she says, “but for many years it’s been a subsidiary, and so many of the basic corporate structures are not there.” Milano is creating a compliance program, a corporate responsibility practice, and a board of directors. “We’re building it from scratch — and trying to run fast with it,” she says. If anyone has the background to guide a company through diversification and expansion, it’s Milano. She started her in-house career 20 years ago with Honda of America Manufacturing Inc., then a motorcycle maker. She helped build its law department, keeping pace with Honda’s rapid growth. Milano left the company in 1994 to work for a small Seattle coffee outfit: Starbucks Corporation. During her tenure as GC there, it grew from $243 million in sales to over $5 billion. As head of corporate responsibility, she helped pioneer the inclusion of living wage and human rights clauses in purchasing contracts that won accolades for the company. Milano says working for a highly visible brand pushed her to develop exacting legal and ethical standards. It was this philosophy that led friend and fellow GC Sam Fried of The Limited Inc., to recommend Milano to Eddie Bauer as a corporate compliance consultant last summer. As the company planned its independent future, they decided to bring Milano on staff. “I’ve been very lucky in my in-house career,” she says, adding that success led her to seek new challenges. She’s got her work cut out for her. According to its reorganization plan, Eddie Bauer will close about 30 home furnishings stores in the next year, expand its licensing business, and capitalize on its brand recognition. It’s already stamped its name on products ranging from eyeglasses to a special edition Ford Explorer. Milano sounds unfazed by it all. “I’ve spent much of my career building legal areas in fast-growing companies,” she says. “Now I get to do it again.”

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