Abercrombie Fires One Exec, Promotes Another as CEO Races Heats Up

December 22, 2015, 4:08 PM UTC
An Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Pedestrians are reflected in the window of the Abercrombie & Fitch Co. store on 5th Avenue in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, May 26, 2015. Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) has fired the head of its namesake brand after barely more than a year, removing an executive thought to be a leading candidate to be the teen retailer’s next chief executive.

Abercrombie, which has been busy reinventing itself by, among other tactics, ending the use of logos and half-naked greeters at its stores, said in a corporate filing on Tuesday that it had “terminated” Christos Angelides without cause.

The executive had been heading the Abercrombie brand (which, despite carrying the name of the company, is smaller than the Hollister brand) for 14 months, hoping to turn it around. But in that time, Abercrombie continued to struggle: In the four quarters on Angelides’ watch, comparable sales at the Abercrombie fell 9%, 9%, 7% and 5%, respectively. Meanwhile, Hollister reported its first quarter of comparable sales growth in three years in November. Still, Angelides will get his base salary for 18 months, totaling $1,492,500.

The company also said Fran Horowitz, president of the Hollister brand, will take on the newly created position of chief merchandising officer for the whole company, meaning both brands are looking for a new president. But Horowitz’s promotion puts her in a stronger position in the race to be Abercrombie’s next CEO.

“Hollister has seen quicker, clearer progress. As such, we expect the current momentum to be further supported by Fran Horowitz’s promotion to chief merchandising officer, given the success she has seen over the past year as brand president of Hollister,”Jefferies analyst Randal Konik, wrote in a research note.

With Angelides’ exit, Horowitz and Abercrombie & Fitch chief operating officer Jonathan Ramsden are the company’s leading internal candidates to be the new CEO, a post that has been vacant since the controversial Mike Jeffries left last year after 16 years at the helm. On Jeffries’ watch, the company created the Hollister watch and Abercrombie because a cultural touchstone. But the company struggled to adapt to changing tastes as young shoppers moved away from logo-adorned clothing.

Earlier this month, rival American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) ended its own CEO search by making permanent the interim CEO, Jay Schottenstein.


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