- J. Crew announced on Friday the retirement of its chairman and former CEO Millard "Mickey" Drexler, according to a press release. Drexler is leaving the company to "devote his full time to the development of Drexler Ventures, LLC and other interests."
- Chad Leat, who has served as a director of the company since 2017 and is a retired vice chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup, was elected to succeed Drexler as chairman.
- Drexler will continue to serve as a strategic advisor to the board and the office of the CEO, the company said. J. Crew did not respond to a Retail Dive request for further comment.
Mickey Drexler is exiting J. Crew during a time of corporate uncertainty. The brand's holiday season proved rocky at best as its website crashed over Black Friday and technical glitches continued throughout the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
Several days later the company's then-CEO, James Brett, announced his departure. J. Crew did not immediately fill the role, and instead founded the "office of the CEO" which is currently being run by a committee of four executives.
It's a complicated end to Drexler's dramatic tenure with the brand. He joined the company as CEO in 2003 and launched the Madewell brand in 2006. Perhaps most notably, Drexler acted as a mentor to Jenna Lyons during a time characterized by aesthetic changes in the brand's apparel.
In May of 2017, Drexler gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal in which he confessed that he underestimated the influence of technology on retail. Less than a month later he stepped down as CEO of the company.
Yet, his influence as a "merchant prince" of specialty retail — especially during the 90s and into the 2000s — cannot be understated. Drexler's phenomenal success at Gap, Inc. led to the launch of Old Navy and Gap Kids, heralding a time of significant growth for the company. Drexler also worked as the president and CEO of Ann Taylor prior to joining Gap and served as a director of Apple Inc. from 1999 to 2015. Currently, he also serves as chairman of Outdoor Voices and a Warby Parker board member — both companies he has advised and invested in through Drexler Ventures.
"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.