Fortune’s Jennifer Reingold spoke with Gilt Vice Chairman and former CEO Susan Lyne about today’s announcement of Michelle Peluso, global consumer chief marketing and internet officer at Citigroup (C) and former CEO of Travelocity, as Gilt’s new CEO. Peluso will start her job in February.
Q: Michelle is the fourth CEO of Gilt Groupe in almost five years. Why do you think she’s the right choice to lead the company?
A.Michelle has been a director for more than three years. She’s a phenomenal board member, just laser sharp, and she is always the board member who comes through with the question you should have considered. She’s also got exactly the right background; she has big strengths in both product and marketing and those are arguably the two greatest skills for the next phase of Gilt. She’s operated huge companies, and she has also been a startup person so she still understands the value of culture.
She’s also a passionate customer. She has been obsessed with Gilt as a consumer since she came onto the board. She even bought her honeymoon on Gilt.
This conversation has been going on for a while. She was the first person that we talked to when Kevin Ryan decided he wanted to step down from the CEO position and she wasn’t there yet. We did a search, and she was always the example we held up as the perfect person. I guess it took the possibility of someone else coming into the role for her to say yes!
Do you still intend for Gilt to go public? If so, when?
The likely outcome is that Gilt will become a public company, but until we file we are still happily a private company. The earliest we would do this would be 4Q 2013. The IPO problems we’ve seen this year have certainly made us think hard about how and when we would go public and there are lessons to be learned from all of that. But for the time being, what’s important is that the company is growing, the consumer base is growing, the conversation rate is growing and we’ve become profitable this quarter.
Will you need to raise more money before then?
We don’t need cash right now and we have no plans going forward to raise money.
What will your and Kevin’s roles be going forward?
Neither of us is going to have an operating role but we’re both still passionately involved in the company and you can assume we will spend more time than a typical board member would, but we have to let her run the company. We are all very aligned on where Gilt plays and Michelle is the right person to operate the company going forward.
Gilt has tried a lot of things, some of which worked and others, not so much. What is Gilt’s core business?
We are committed to being a flash sale company. We are about appointment shopping and the categories where we see the most growth are men, women, home, kids, and services and experiences. But not full price and not some of the more niche areas. And we’re not investing more deeply in Gilt Taste. Those are the kinds of things we jumped at 18 months ago when we were convinced that everything we touched was going to work.
The buying dynamic for our customers is ‘I want to be tempted.’ There doesn’t seen to be a cap on what they are willing to spend. We sold the raft from “Life of Pi” for $40,000 last week and a $60,000 flight on Virgin Atlantic this month.