At Gap, Another Non-Fashion CEO

Posted by: Jena McGregor on July 27, 2007

Somewhere over at J. Crew HQ, Mickey Drexler is laughing in his chinos. After the merchant prince was pushed out as CEO of the Gap in 2002, the khakis king brought in Paul Pressler, a Disney executive with no fashion experience. We all know how that one ended: In January, Pressler resigned under pressure, scion Robert Fisher took the reins, and a six-month search for one of the toughest jobs in retail followed.

Today, in a surprise move, Gap announced another non-fashion CEO. Canadian drugstore executive Glenn Murphy will become the troubled company’s chief after the board initially called for “recruiting a chief executive officer who has deep retailing and merchandising experience, ideally in apparel.” I’ll give Murphy the same benefit of the doubt that Wall Street, though skeptical, claims it will give him—at least Murphy has retail experience, which today’s press release was oh-so-careful to highlight. But as the board indicated itself, the choice seems less than ideal.

For years, companies have tried to import CEOs from other fields. Sometimes it works. But in an industry as fickle and visionary and creative as fashion, CEOs without their finger on the pulse of new trends will have a much harder time than most.

Reader Comments

Thomas

July 29, 2007 2:49 PM

Having experience and knowledge of the industry are plusses and almost never negatives. The argument was perhaps the ability to think outside the box. In my opinion, most disasters happen because managers don't think INSIDE the box enough -- addressing issues that are relevant and executing the plans well, not because they lacked the "vision" or "big idea."

It's always been a wonder to me why boards can't find qualified managers within the industry. Surely there has to be someone. Same goes for CEOs who are willing to work for less than a million. There are too many who would jump at the chance to lead/change a company because it enriches their lives and profession, not their pocketbooks.

Thomas

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