Michael Jefferies, the controversial CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, stepped down from his post on Tuesday effective immediately, marking the end of a two-decade long career that saw several ups and downs.
Abercrombie & Fitch did not specify if Jeffries was asked to leave or if it was his personal decision. It, however, said that the board had started looking for a potential candidate to fill the post. Meanwhile, the board has established an Office of the Chairman, which will include Chairman Arthur Martinez, CFO Jonathan Ramsden, brand president Christos Angelides and Fran Horowitz, brand president of Hollister, that will take care of the company's needs in the interim.
"It is impossible to overstate Mike Jeffries' extraordinary accomplishments in building Abercrombie & Fitch to the iconic status the brand now enjoys. From a standing start two decades ago, his creativity and imagination were the driving forces behind the company's growth and success," Martinez said in a statement.
"Going forward, we are confident in our talented senior leadership team and the steps we are taking to revitalize our brands and business. We are also confident that our search will identify a new leader with the skills and expertise to enable Abercrombie & Fitch to capitalize fully on its growth opportunities and build shareholder value," Martinez added.
Jefferies said that it had been an honor to lead the extraordinarily talented group of people in the firm.
"I am extremely proud of your accomplishments. I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the Company forward in the next phase of its development," Jefferies said.
Jeffries departure is the latest shake-up in the top-level management at Abercrombie & Fitch as several investors have been displeased by the company's recent performance and controversies.
Abercrombie & Fitch has been struggling to fix its balance sheet and its reputation. Over the past few months, the company has been marred by several controversies including one where Jeffries said that the brand was "exclusionary" and, therefore, didn't have sizes exceeding 10 or L.
Experts say that news of the stepping-down doesn't really come as a surprise and could even be good for the company's profits and reputation. Robin Lewis of Forbes notes that though Jefferies had a hand in positioning A&F's image and taking it to new highs, he wasn't able to strategically adopt to the changes the brand required.
"Essentially, Michael Jeffries was A&F and A&F was Michael Jeffries. Both were one. Therefore, for him to re-position the brand, would be as impossible as changing his own personality – or his DNA. And, of course, he has not been able to do so," Lewis writes.
Others say that the departure is probably a calculated decision by the company.
"Clearly one of the company's goals was to work on a succession plan. From the company's standpoint, they're going to continue to do what they've been trying to do, which is to balance change with stability," John D. Morris, a senior retail analyst with BMO Capital Markets was quoted by The New York Times.