A retail legend is moving on.
J.Crew Group announced that Millard "Mickey" Drexler, chairman and former CEO of the company, has retired to devote his time to the development of Drexler Ventures LLC, which invests in and advises emerging brands, including Outdoor Voices and Warby Parker. He will be succeeded as J. Crew chairman by Chad Leat, effective immediately.
Leat, who has served as a director of J.Crew since January 2017, is a retired vice chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup with nearly 30 years of markets and banking experience.
Drexler currently serves as chairman of Outdoor Voices and is a board member at Warby Parker. He also previously served as a director of Apple Inc. from 1999 to 2015.
Drexler joined J.Crew as CEO in 2003, growing it from a small specialty operation into an iconic and global fashion brand with a successful spin-off, Madewell, which he founded in 2006. But the namesake brand has struggled in recent years amid the rise of fast fashion, online disruption and its own fashion misses. Drexler stepped down as CEO (he remained chairman) in July 2017, succeeded by James Brett, formerly president of West Elm.
After only 16 months on the job, Brett was out, replaced by an “office of the CEO” made up of four senior J. Crew executives. In a short statement, Brett hinted that clashes with the J. Crew board were the reason for his sudden departure. (The Wall Street Journal reported that Brett left following disagreements with Drexler over strategy and board concerns over spending plans.)
Drexler will continue to serve as a strategic advisor to the “office of the CEO” and the board.
"It's been a privilege to have had more than 15 years with J.Crew Group both as CEO and chairman of the board. J.Crew and Madewell have been long admired as iconic American brands, and I am thankful to have been a part of their evolution throughout the years," said Drexler.
In a statement, new chairman Leat said that his priorities will be to ensure that the J.Crew brand “moves quickly to capitalize on recent momentum and to support Madewell's growth towards becoming a one billion dollar brand, while also working with the board to identify strong, permanent leadership to guide the company in its next chapter."
Prior to J.Crew, Drexler spent 18 years at Gap, Inc., where he was named president in 1987 and CEO in 1995. While at Gap, he founded Old Navy and launched Gap Kids, turning the company into a retail powerhouse. Before joining Gap in 1983, Drexler served as president and CEO of Ann Taylor from 1980 to 1983.
As of November 29, 2018, J. Crew Group operates 227 J.Crew retail stores, 127 Madewell stores, jcrew.com, jcrewfactory.com, madewell.com, and 175 factory stores (including 42 J.Crew Mercantile stores).