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Gap’s Fisher Stands Behind Pressler

Gap Inc. founder and chairman emeritus Donald G. Fisher issued a firm denial on Monday of a WWD report that he was seeking a successor for Gap Inc. chief executive officer and president Paul Pressler.

NEW YORK — Gap Inc. founder and chairman emeritus Donald G. Fisher issued a firm denial on Monday of a WWD report that he was seeking a successor for Gap Inc. chief executive officer and president Paul Pressler.

Fisher also expressed strong support for Pressler, who has been running Gap Inc. since the fall of 2002.

On Monday, a WWD story quoted anonymous sources from the retail and fashion industry who contended that Fisher had been placing calls to executives he thought could possibly succeed Pressler, but that no head-hunting firm had been retained to find a new ceo.

In a letter to WWD, Fisher wrote that the story was “patently false and speculative … the premise of the story is based entirely on anonymous sources who clearly haven’t spoken to me and apparently know even less about Gap Inc.

“There is no search, formal or informal, for a new ceo of Gap Inc.,” Fisher said.

He added, “The Gap Inc. board of directors and I are fully supportive of Paul Pressler. He is a proven leader, strategist and chief executive. Paul is the right person to lead this company and I am fully supportive of his efforts to get this company on the right track for the long term.

“Contrary to the story, I have not been ‘reaching out’ to any potential candidates to replace Paul. I have not ‘schmoozed’ Roger Markfield. In fact, I haven’t even spoken with Roger in more than two years.” The Monday story quoted a source as claiming that Fisher had contacted Markfield, currently vice chairman of American Eagle Outfitters, who worked with Fisher from 1976 to 1979 as senior vice president of merchandising and marketing for Gap.

“Under Paul’s leadership over the past three years, Gap Inc. has built a foundation for long-term growth, dramatically improving the financial health of the company. In addition to strengthening the company’s infrastructure, Paul has expanded Banana Republic internationally, successfully launched a new brand and significantly upgraded our online capabilities.”

Gap has been under pressure by Wall Street for better results following months of weak comp-store figures and a low stock price, and certain analysts have questioned Pressler’s leadership at Gap. The company has also been recruiting a lot of new talent, including hiring Charlotte Neuville as executive vice president of design and product development for the Gap brand, and Pamela Wallack as executive vice president for GapKids, babyGap and Gap Maternity.