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10 Things You Should Know About Gap’s New CEO

Including his hatred for sweaters that pill.

10 Things You Should Know About Gap’s New CEO
Art Peck, a nine-year Gap Inc. veteran, and new CEO. [Photos: Mark Mahaney]

Merchant prince Mickey Drexler led the company in the 90s. Ex-Disney exec Paul Pressler held the reins in the 2000s. Both executives who enjoyed high-profile, yet very different tenures that had one thing in common: they ended disastrously (translation: they were fired). On February 1, Art Peck replaced Glenn Murphy as the new CEO of Gap Inc., and with sales stagnating and an adrift brand, he’s got his work cut out for him.

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Peck, a nine-year veteran of Gap Inc., has spent the past two years running the company’s $2.2 billion e-commerce and omnichannel offerings. However, “I hope the label on me is not ‘Mr. Digital,'” Peck told Fast Company last December, before he officially began his new job. Peck has touched virtually every part of the company, from its outlet business to its global expansion.

Here are 10 other facts about the guy whose job it will be to restore the ailing brand to its once-iconic status:

1. Before coming to the Gap, Peck spent nearly two decades as a management consultant. In his early 20s, the native west-coaster ended up outside Chicago, where his wife was going to business school. He needed a job and on a lark applied to Boston Consulting Group. “It turned out a little bit like Gilligan’s Island,” he says. “I figured it was going to be a 3-hour tour and the weather started getting rough and the tiny boat was tossed. And it turned into 20-some years.”

2. A liberal arts major at Occidental College, Peck was accepted at Harvard Business School at the age of 20. His 1979 graduating MBA class included Meg Whitman, U.S. labor secretary Elaine Chao, and notorious Enron president Jeff Skilling.

3. Peck didn’t start working with apparel until his late 40s, when Paul Pressler, then the CEO of Gap Inc., hired him as a consultant. Pressler soon poached Peck and made him Gap Inc.’s executive vice president of strategy and operations.

4. Gap likely wouldn’t be as global as it is today without Peck. By the mid-2000s, the primarily domestic retailer had plateaued with its handful of stores in Western Europe and Japan. Peck pitched a franchise strategy: instead of wholly-owning Gaps internationally, it could sell its product to the best third-party local operators in each respective region, who’d then handle everything from real estate to IT. Today. the retailer has 414 franchise-operated stores.

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5. Peck was instrumental in helping launch Gap’s 2006 Product Red campaign. He had an emotional connection to the initiative, which not only donated 50% of the profits from Gap’s Red-branded sales to the Global Fund to help African women and children with HIV/AIDS , but sourced some of the product in Africa, where he briefly lived with his wife in the early 1980s.

6. Of Peck’s four children—who are between the ages of 22 to 28—two work for Gap Inc., both as merchants for Old Navy. “We have great dinner table conversations that are perplexing to the other three family members at times,” says Peck.

7. Peck’s biggest pet peeve when it comes to clothing is sweaters that pill—something he knows he needs to fix at the Gap. “If you ever bought a sweater and it pills the second time you wear it, it really pisses you off,” says Peck, who is not only working to improve the Gap’s fashion sensibility and design cycle, but its quality. “I know, I know, I’m on it.”

8. In the months before he officially became CEO, Peck shook up his new management team, installing new presidents for the Gap and Banana Republic brands, eliminating Gap’s global CMO position, and letting go Gap’s head of design, Rebekka Bay.

9. Peck is an avid runner committed to covering what he (subjectively) considers “the best runs” on all seven continents. So far, he and his wife have traversed the base of Table Mountain in South Africa, the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, Manhattan’s Brooklyn Bridge, and the waterfront surrounding the Sydney Opera House. “I haven’t been to Antarctica yet, so we have some work do there,” says Peck, who also runs marathons with his kids.

10. The 59-year-old hates classic rock (because “it’s stuck in time”) and has a quote next to his bed framed by his wife: “Beware the lollipop of mediocrity. Lick it once and you suck forever.”

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About the author

Danielle Sacks is an award-winning journalist and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She's chronicled some of the most provocative people in business, with seven cover stories that included profiles on J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Malcolm Gladwell, and Chelsea Clinton.

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