November 26, 2020
J. Crew Group has named Libby Wadle—the head of its popular casual-wear division, Madewell—as its next CEO, the company announced in a press release on November 24. Wadle will replace outgoing CEO Jan Singer , who took over the struggling retailer last January— after short stints as CEO of Victoria’s Secret and Spanx.
The private-equity-backed J. Crew, which emerged from bankruptcy in September. has seen extensive turnover at the top level, with Wadle becoming its fourth CEO in under four years, Business Insider reports.
Longtime CEO Mickey Drexler stepped down in 2017 as J.Crew fell out of favor with consumers ;and he was succeeded by Jim Brett, who lasted just 17 months before stepping down in November 2018 amid a clash over the company’s direction. After Brett’s departure, the retailer went more than a year without a CEO until Singer’s appointment in January.
“Moving forward as a company under unified leadership, we will harness the power of our collective platforms and talented teams to ensure our brands can continue to inspire and grow,” said Wadle, who has spent the last 16 years in senior leadership roles at various J.Crew brands.
Wadle takes over as economic fallout from COVID-19 has ravaged brick-and-mortar retailers, but J.Crew’s sales had been declining even before the pandemic hit. In May, J.Crew became the first major retailer to file for bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic, reaching a deal with its lenders to convert about $1.65 billion of its debt into equity, according to Business Insider.
“The continued executive turnover at J.Crew adds to the turbulence of an already brutal year for the retailer. The brand’s turnaround, which was in process during 2019, is now more challenging given the ongoing disruption in apparel spending, as the pandemic continues to radically alter US consumers’ shopping habits,” Moody’s VP Raya Sokolyanska told Business Insider in a statement.