In Other News: Seven Retailers Searching for CEOs

by Harry Sheff
HSN's Mindy Grossman is being courted by retailers.
HSN’s Mindy Grossman is being courted by retailers.

More than a half-dozen major retailers are looking for new chief executives, as an article in Chain Store Age pointed out recently. American Apparel, American Eagle Outfitters, Bon-Ton, Dollar General, Gordmans, JCPenney and Target are all in various stages of CEO searches, some more urgent than others. Nine if you count L.L. Bean, whose CEO plans to retire in 2016, and women’s wear retailer Bebe Stores, which was led by former Lacoste chief Steve Birkhold until June.

Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel resigned in May after 35 years with the Minneapolis-based retailer. He had been president since 1999 and CEO since 2008. In his resignation, he mentioned the infamous data breach, in which at least 40 million customers’ personal information was compromised, and the discount retailer’s rocky rollout in Canada. Target’s board appointed CFO John Mulligan as interim CEO. Rumored outside candidates for the spot include Home Shopping Network chief Mindy Grossman, Macy’s Inc. CEO Terry Lundgren and J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler.

JCPenney, which brought its former CEO Mike Ullman out of retirement on an interim basis after a ruinous run with Ron Johnson, reportedly offered the job to Home Shopping Network’s Mindy Grossman, but she turned it down.

Bon-Ton CEO Brendan Hoffman announced in March that he would not renew his contract in 2015. Even before that there was speculation that he may be interested in assuming command of JCPenney. Hoffman, 43, joined Bon-Ton in February 2012; he was vague about his reasons for not renewing the contract. Bon-Ton, which operates 270 stores in 25 states under the Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers names, reported a wider first-quarter loss of $31.5 million in May.

American Apparel’s trials have been reported exhaustively lately. Its controversial founder, Dov Charney, was ousted by the board in mid-June. Charney fought the board and raised his stake in the company to 43 percent with the help of Standard General. However, Standard General said last week that it had come to an agreement with Charney and the board under which Charney and five of the seven board members would step down and an independent group would investigate Charney’s alleged misconduct. “Based on the findings of the investigation, the committee will determine if it is appropriate for Mr. Charney to serve as CEO or an officer or employee of American Apparel,” Standard General said in a statement.

American Eagle Outfitters CEO Robert Hanson joined the company in late 2011 and left abruptly in January this year; later it came out that he had been fired. Hanson, who spent most of his career at Levi’s, was brought on to help the mall-based retailer regain market share from fast-fashion rivals. According to a report by BuzzFeed in April, Hanson was a breath of fresh air for the retailer’s younger employees, but some of the old guard resented his attempts to change the company and worked to remove him. “Sources said Hanson’s biggest obstacle was Roger Markfield, American Eagle’s 72-year-old executive creative director,” BuzzFeed reported. Markfield had apparently postponed retirement to campaign against Hanson.

Dollar General, the more successful of the two major “dollar” discount chains in the U.S., opened its 11,000th store in October last year, one of 650 stores it had planned for 2013. CEO Rick Dreiling said two weeks ago that he plans to retire in 2015. Dreiling, 60, has been at the helm since 2008 and has overseen enormous growth at the retailer— annual sales have increased more than 80 percent to $17.5 billion in 2013 alone.

Omaha-based discount retailer Gordmans operates 95 stores in 20 states. Jeff Gordman, the great-grandson of the retailer’s founder, announced in March that he was retiring to spend more time with his family and to pursue other interests. He had been president and CEO since 1996. Board chairman T. Scott King is serving as interim CEO, taking a leave of absence from his role as senior managing director at Sun Capital to do it. Gordman sold the retailer to Sun Capital in 2008.