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More trouble at J.Crew: Newest CEO Jim Brett has already stepped down

More trouble at J.Crew: Newest CEO Jim Brett has already stepped down
[Photo: Flickr user bargainmoose]

There’s more trouble afoot at J.Crew. After only 16 months on the job, CEO Jim Brett has left his post, leaving the company’s leadership to a team of four executives. According to the Wall Street Journal, his departure came after clashes with J.Crew’s longtime head Mickey Drexler, and the rest of the board, over differences in spending plans.

The American clothier has had a tempestuous two years. Last April, its acclaimed creative director Jenna Lyons departed the company. Drexler stepped aside as CEO last June, after 14 years on the job, but continued to serve as chairman of the board. It’s clear now that Drexler still maintains a tight grip on the company.

Brett had ambitious plans for a turnaround. It was his idea to put some merchandise on Amazon, and create less expensive subbrands, including J.Crew’s Mercantile and a yet-to-launch brand called Nevereven. These lines seem reminiscent of Gap Inc.’s Old Navy line, which has been thriving. But according to people familiar with the matter, Drexler believed that these moves were cheapening the brand. (We reached out to J.Crew, but a spokesperson said the brand did not have any comment to share.)

J.Crew is not profitable. It generated $1.13 billion in revenue in the first half of this fiscal year, but is also has $1.7 billion in debt from a 2011 leveraged buyout. In August, after four years of declining sales, J.Crew posted a slight gain in quarterly sales, which can be attributed to Brett’s changes.

Without Brett, it’s unclear what J.Crew’s next move will be. But one thing is clear: The constant shake-up of leadership does not inspire much confidence in the brand.

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