- J. Crew on Tuesday announced that the CEO in charge of its namesake brands, Jan Singer, is out and "has elected to pursue other endeavors," according to a company press release.
- Libby Wadle has been named CEO and will oversee J. Crew and J. Crew Factory in addition to her current leadership role at Madewell.
- Wadle has been at J. Crew for 16 years. She most recently served as president and then CEO of Madewell. She joined the retailer in 2004 as vice president of J. Crew Factory.
Jan Singer lasted in the CEO position at J. Crew less than 10 months. The executive stepped into the role in early February of this year, coming from L Brands as CEO of Victoria's Secret Lingerie.
It's another chapter in a fraught year for the apparel retailer. In May, the company filed for Chapter 11 protection, the first major retailer to do so amid the COVID-19 pandemic disruption, as it tried to exit leases and "optimize" its footprint. By September, the retailer exited bankruptcy and said it was positioned for long-term growth.
Prior to that J. Crew delayed a proposed Madewell IPO in early March — only a couple of weeks before the pandemic precipitated a temporary shutdown of nonessential stores. The company had been eyeing the possibility of separating J. Crew and Madewell into two independent companies.
Madewell, which has consistently out-performed the company's namesake brand, posted double-digit sale increases under the leadership of Wadle, who was named Madewell's first CEO in April 2019. Wadle "has been a key force behind Madewell's strong fiscal results and growth trajectory ... as Madewell is on track to becoming a $1 billion business under her leadership," the company said at the time of that appointment.
Now, J. Crew may be expecting Wadle to bring some of that same magic to her new position to shore up the company's finances and better position its namesake brand, which is known for its business apparel offerings at a time when many people are both working from home and reaching for more comfortable clothing options.
"The continued executive turnover at J.Crew adds to the turbulence of an already brutal year for the retailer," said Raya Sokolyanska, Moody's vice-president and senior analyst, in emailed comments. "The brand's turnaround, which was in process during 2019, is now more challenging given the ongoing disruption in apparel retail spending, as the pandemic continues to radically alter US consumers' shopping habits."
Wadle is the third executive to take the top spot in as many years. James Brett was in the role for about 18 months prior to Singer. He left in 2018. Before that Mickey Drexler held the CEO role from 2003 through 2017.