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Abercrombie's Infamous CEO Retires

Michael-jeffries-WWDIt has been a long time coming, but Mark Jeffries, the embattled CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch has finally bowed out after several years of scandals, embarrassing press coverage and, most importantly, poor business performance. He was announced to be retired this morning according to WWD. The company will be run by a newly created "Office of the Chairman" to be led by newly promoted executive chairman Arthur Martinez and a group of other managers. An executive search firm has been engaged to find a permanent CEO.
While Jeffries can be credited with transforming Abercrombie & Fitch from a dusty classic sportswear retailer to one of the country's hottest retailers for teens and young adults with racy advertising and youthful product design, the backlash set in hard after numerous insensitive comments to the press and reports of unprofessional behavior behind the scenes including giving his partner responsibilities and influence over business decisions without his actually being an employee. Strong business had often allowed Jeffries to deflect criticism, but the company's recent poor performance coupled with renewed criticism of Jeffries' business practices proved to be too much for him to bear.

While Abercrombie's sexy image was what catapulted it to success in the 1990s, its resolute refusal to update and evolve its signature imagery has allowed it to long since fall into self-parody with its shirtless greeters, dark, over-scented stores and male pinup shopping bags. what was once exciting to shoppers has become stale as its third quarter sales fell 12% and comparable sales online and in-store fell 10%, continuing a downward trajectory. Jeffries' public statement regarding his retirement goes as follows:

"It has been an honor to lead this extraordinarily talented group of people.  I am extremely proud of your accomplishments.  I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the Company forward in the next phase of its development."

Without him at the helm, maintaining his own creative direction and choices, look for some radical change at the chain as it works to shore up its business and re-invent itself for a new generation of shoppers.

Michael Jeffries Out at A&F (WWD)


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