Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries is stepping down from the position after more than a decade with the company.
According to Fortune, Jeffries ran the teen clothing company since 1992 and is officially retiring as both CEO and a member of the board of directors. Jeffries is best known for his controversial statements made about the Abercrombie & Fitch brand, which suggested the clothes weren’t for fat, ugly, or uncool people. Meanwhile, Mike Jeffries was called a hypocrite for having a fairly unpleasant face himself. But in an official statement, Jeffries claims his reasons to step down are unrelated to the controversy. The former Abercrombie CEO said that this “was the right time for new leadership to take the company forward in the next phase of its development.”
Mike Jeffries has not yet been replaced, but Abercrombie will likely be quick to choose a successor. The change of leadership could pertain to the recent increase in market competition between Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, Forever 21, American Eagle, Aeropostale, and other successful clothing brands. Lately, Abercrombie & Fitch has been marketing their clothing toward a more adult demographic, mostly by reducing the emphasis on the Abercrombie logo on their merchandise.
According to Market Watch, Abercrombie is hiring a search firm to find Jeffries’ successor. The company is considering candidates from both inside and outside the company. Jeffries is largely considered to be the founder of the Abercrombie & Fitch brand but his decision to retire might be the result of internal pressure to step down. An activist hedge fund encouraged the board to replace the CEO last year and to sell the company. The board defended Jeffries at the time, but did end up revoking Jeffries’ title as chairman and proceeded to search for a replacement. It’s difficult to determine what provoked this outside pressure, and whether or not it was related to the public’s strong dislike of Mike Jeffrie’s inflammatory comments.
According to Forbes, Mike Jeffries did release a statement saying he regretted his insensitive comments that implied Abercrombie & Fitch was designed specifically for skinny, attractive teenagers. But the comments were never forgotten by consumers and Jeffries has left the company. In the meantime, the day-to-day operations of Abercrombie & Fitch are being run by non-executive board chairman Arthur Martinez.
The clothing brand has been suffering lately, having failed to earn its third quarter estimates this past November. Abercrombie shareholders will have to hope the new CEO is up to the challenge.