Emily Scott founded J. Crew with her father in 1983; now she and her husband, Thomas Scott, will both resign their positions as directors of J. Crew's board. Emily Scott was once J. Crew's CEO, though she stopped being involved in the company's day-to-day functions when Millard "Mickey" Drexler took that job. She also served as chairman of the board from 1997 to 2003. After the company's IPO, she still owned 10% of J. Crew's shares.
J. Crew's press release said that the Scotts are leaving for "personal reasons," and another director, Bridget Ryan Berman, is leaving due to her recent assumption of the role as CEO of the American subsidiary of Giorgio Armani. But the "personal reasons" excuse has become so common with resignations like these that it feels downright empty. Although J. Crew said in its 8-K filing that "these departures were not caused by any disagreement with the Company on any matter related to the Company's operations, policies or practices," I don't think investors can help but scratch their heads. Meanwhile, Berman has been CEO of Giorgio Armani since April, and her assumption of that position has been public knowledge since the company's IPO.
I had my share of doubts about the spike in J. Crew's stock price when it went public, pointing out a fair share of risk for this retailer. But so far, the stock has been a successful IPO, rising roughly 25% since June.
Although my Foolish colleague Nate Parmelee examined J. Crew's first quarterly report as a public company, noting that the IPO helped to clean up its balance sheet considerably, I have always questioned J. Crew's real competitive advantage. Many shoppers consider it awfully expensive, and there are plenty of retailers to serve customers with similar tastes, including American Eagle Outfitters
J. Crew also maintains aggressive expansion plans, despite an increasingly skittish climate for retail and consumer spending. As Nate mentioned, last quarter showed signs of discounting at J. Crew, albeit not so drastic as that employed by some other retailers.
Mickey Drexler is a well-known name in retail, but not necessarily in a good way. Many observers credit him with Gap's rapid overexpansion during his tenure as the retailer's CEO, a surge that halted when Paul Pressler took the helm more recently. Meanwhile, a co-founder's departure sounds less than heartening for J. Crew.
When J. Crew first went public, I wondered whether the IPO might end up benefiting insiders and creditors more than the investors who piled in. Bear in mind that the equity firm Texas Pacific Group owned nearly 40% of J. Crew as of the IPO filing. When might it start cashing out? It's only been a few months since the IPO, which suggests that the three directors may have been waiting for that offering before saying their goodbyes. It might also give shareholders good reason to wonder about J. Crew's long-term outlook.
Try further Foolishness on for size:
- Last quarter, one Fool was intrigued by J. Crew.
- I took a look at J. Crew after its IPO.
- Read about J. Crew's newest concept, Madewell.