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Instant Analysis: Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Narrows Its Executive Team to 2

By Rich Duprey – Dec 24, 2015 at 10:02AM

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Teen retailer fires one executive and promotes another as it narrows the field for a new CEO

What happened?
Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF 0.67%) shuffled its C-suite chairs, promoting Hollister brand president Fran Horowitz to the newly created position of President & Chief Merchandising Officer, while also announcing that it fired Abercrombie president, Christos Angelides. The company's search for a new chief executive has also been called off.


Does it matter?
Ever since longtime CEO Mike Jeffries resigned during last year's Christmas selling season, Abercrombie & Fitch pitted three executives against one another -- Horowitz, Angelides, and COO Jonathan Ramsden -- by creating an "office of the chairman," and having them vie for the chance to become the retailer's new chief executive. Firing Angelides, and elevating Horowitz, suggests the contest has been reduced to two, with the job possibly the new CMO's to lose.

The uneven results of the teen retailer could be seen as a result of having too many chefs in the kitchen. But one of the more immediate successes was the transformation of the Hollister brand into something of a fast-fashion house. Last quarter, Hollister posted its first quarter of comparable-sales growth in three years, while the Abercrombie brand continued to be mired in declining comps in the mid-single-digit range.

The changes, though, mean that, not only will the retailer not have a chief executive, but both of its major brands will be without presidents, too. Abercrombie says it will make appointments to fill them in due time, but in a statement to Fortune, it said that it thinks it can get along with its "current governance structure."

American Eagle Outfitters (AEO -3.17%) was also another troubled retailer that had been operating with an interim chief executive, but earlier this month announced that Jay Schottenstein would be made permanent.

Both retailers have had to adjust away from the logo-centric design ethic that had carried them for years, as changing consumer tastes embraced the disposable fashion trend popularized by H&M, Century 21, and Zara. Abercrombie & Fitch has been moving in that direction. American Eagle has not, but its recovery last quarter was also more dramatic than its rival's.

Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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