J.Crew CEO in surprise exit, four-exec team steps in for now

The disruption at J.Crew is continuing with the struggling retailer’s CEO Jim Brett leaving after only 17 months at the helm, the company said Saturday. And in a sign of how sudden his departure was, there’s no replacement lined up and his role will be filled for now by a four-person team.


J.Crew


Brett, who has also worked at West Elm, JCPenney, May Company, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters, took up his role in June 2017 and has been leading the firm’s turnaround that resulted in its first same-store sales rise in four years during the last quarter.

But despite that, his exit statement made it clear he had clashed with the board over strategy and their disagreements couldn’t be resolved.

In the statement he said: "Returning J.Crew to its iconic status required reinventing the brand to reflect the America of today with a more expansive, more inclusive fashion concept. However, despite the recent brand relaunch already showing positive results, the board and I were unable to bridge our beliefs on how to continue to evolve all aspects of the company.”

So what happens next? As mentioned, there’s no CEO-designate waiting in the wings and the company will be led by a team of four execs including COO Michael Nicholson, Chief Experience Officer Adam Brotman, Chief Administrative Officer Lynda Markoe and Madewell President Libby Wadle. A search for a full-time CEO will also start.

And whoever takes over will have a challenge on their hands. Brett had been leading the firm as it slowly returned to health after a bruising period in the latter years of former CEO Mickey Drexler and creative chief Jenna Lyons. But while he lowered prices, widened the size offer and even began selling the lower-price Mercantile line on Amazon, the company is not out of the woods yet.

Madewell has been the more impressive performer overall of the firm’s brands, and while the J.Crew label returned to comps growth last quarter, the rise was small, and after some years of falling sales, it still has a lot of ground to catch up.

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