After 24 years at the helm, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Chief Executive Officer Mike Jeffries, who turned the retail chain into a billion dollar teen-apparel company before losing its cachet recently, is stepping down affective immediately.Mike Jeffries.001

Abercrombie had already stripped Jeffries, 70, of his chairman role a year ago as the retailer came under fire for losing their relevance with teenage shoppers, leading to 11 consecutive quarters of declining same-store sales and the retailer’s shares falling almost 20 percent this year so far. Investors applauded Jeffries’s departure, sending the stock up as much as 9.8 percent to $28.94 in early trading.

In a press release issued today by the the New Albany, Ohio-based company, Jeffries will retire immediately as CEO. Abercrombie & Fitch’s current Non-Executive Chairman of the Board, Arthur Martinez, will become Executive Chairman. The Board has established an Office of the Chairman, consisting of Mr. Martinez, as well as Jonathan Ramsden, Chief Operating Officer, Christos Angelides, Brand President of Abercrombie & Fitch and Fran Horowitz, Brand President of Hollister.  The Office of the Chairman, led by Arthur Martinez, will oversee the Company’s strategic direction and be responsible for managing the Company’s day-to-day operations until a new CEO is appointed.

The board is now seeking a replacement for Jeffries and has enlisted an executive-search firm to identify both internal and external candidates.

Jeffries became CEO in 1992, turning the brand into a retail powerhouse focusing on a preppy, casual aesthetic, married with racy and often provocative advertising. Then the strategy worked,  turning Abercrombie into a desirable teenage status symbol with the company growing quickly to sales topping $1 billion in 1999.

Over the last number of years a few candid remarks by Mr. Jefferies speaking to the exclusionary point of view of the brand have worked to both Mr. Jeffries and the brands detriment with many attributing them as the reason for the brands sales decline.

It is impossible to overstate Mike Jeffries’ extraordinary accomplishments in building Abercrombie & Fitch to the iconic status the brand now enjoys. From a standing start two decades ago, his creativity and imagination were the driving forces behind the company’s growth and success. Going forward, we are confident in our talented senior leadership team and the steps we are taking to revitalize our brands and business.

Arthur Martinez
Executive Chairman

Mr. Jeffries said, “It has been an honor to lead this extraordinarily talented group of people.  I am extremely proud of your accomplishments.  I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the Company forward in the next phase of its development.”