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J.Crew Hires Former Victoria’s Secret Executive Singer as CEO

Kim Bhasin and Katherine Doherty

(Bloomberg) -- J.Crew Group Inc. has named its fourth chief since 2017, ending a year-long search for a permanent boss to re-invigorate the slumping and heavily indebted clothing chain.

Jan Singer, 55, the former head of the lingerie business at Victoria’s Secret and ex-CEO at Spanx Inc., takes over as J.Crew’s chief executive officer on Feb. 2, the company said in a statement.

Interim CEO Michael Nicholson said in the statement that Singer’s hire is an “important milestone” for J.Crew, a company that’s trying to reposition its namesake brand after disappointing sales over the past several years, with customers complaining of high prices on low-quality and ill-fitting clothes. The company posted an $80 million loss for the first three fiscal quarters ended Nov. 2.

Nicholson, named to the post after James Brett departed in November, will return to his previous role as president and chief operating officer. Mickey Drexler, the longtime chief who led the apparel chain through a leveraged buyout, stepped down in 2017.

Apparel Background

Singer spent about two years at Victoria’s Secret, where she began slowly shifting the brand’s $4 billion lingerie business as consumer attitudes changed about empowering women and overtly sexualized marketing. She also spent about two years at underwear-maker Spanx, and was a longtime executive at Nike Inc.

Her resume also includes time with Reebok, Chanel, Calvin Klein and Prada, according to a regulatory filing.

At J.Crew, Singer will be tasked with “rebuilding the strategic positioning and prestige” of the brand, J.Crew Chairman Chad Leat said. Over the past 18 months, J.Crew sharpened its focus on core products while whittling away items that weren’t popular with millennial consumers. In late 2018, it shut two sub-brands that weren’t working: Mercantile and Nevereven.

Its most promising brand is Madewell, which J.Crew is looking to take public to raise capital and help cut its crushing long-term debt load of almost $1.7 billion. As the J.Crew brand struggled to attract shoppers and posted falling revenue, Madewell’s sales rose 13% to nearly $152 million.

Madewell CEO Libby Wadle will remain in her role and report to separately to the board of directors.

The retailer’s first-lien bonds due 2021 trade above par, around 103 cents on the dollar as of Jan. 24, according to Trace bond trading data. Its loan also due 2021 is quoted around 91 cents on the dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Bhasin in New York at kbhasin4@bloomberg.net;Katherine Doherty in New York at kdoherty23@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sally Bakewell at sbakewell1@bloomberg.net;Rick Green at rgreen18@bloomberg.net

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