J.Crew CEO Departs Despite Apparent Turnaround Success

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J.Crew CEO James Brett has stepped down from his position, effective immediately, after 17 months on the job. The retailer declined to elaborate on the reasons for his departure. Brett’s rapid departure is puzzling, since the company is poised to report positive comparable sales growth in the J.Crew brand for the first time in four years when it reports Q3 2018 earnings on Nov. 29.

The leadership role will be temporarily assumed by four senior executives while J.Crew establishes a permanent management structure:

  • Michael Nicholson, President & COO;
  • Adam Brotman, President & Chief Experience Officer;
  • Lynda Markoe, Chief Administrative Officer; and
  • Libby Wadle, President of Madewell Brand.

Brett had served in the CEO role since June 2017. He replaced longtime CEO Millard “Mickey” Drexler, who left at a time of declining sales and foot traffic. Comparable sales at J.Crew fell 6.7% in 2016 on top of an 8.2% drop in 2015. Additionally, the company had more than $2 billion in debt and less than $150 million in cash.


The retailer has since pursued a turnaround by bulking up its C-suite with the hiring of Johanna Uurasjarvi as Chief Design Officer and Brotman, who was previously Chief Digital Officer at Starbucks. The retailer also launched its first customer rewards program in August 2018 and opened a storefront on Amazon in September.



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