By  on November 14, 2005

NEW YORK — Gap Inc. is under financial pressure, leading to speculation that a quiet search has begun for a new chief executive officer to turn it around.

While the corporation has been aggressively recruiting talent, two industry sources said Gap founder, chairman emeritus and largest shareholder Don Fisher is searching on his own for someone to potentially replace Paul Pressler, president and ceo.

"It's a complete rumor," stated a Gap spokeswoman on Friday, responding to the speculation. Pressler and Fisher could not be reached.

But the sources within the fashion and retail industries told WWD that Fisher is quietly placing calls to executives, and no headhunting firm has been hired to conduct an official search. One of the sources called it "a secret search."

The other source said, "It's over. Pressler is going to be replaced and he knows it. Fisher is contacting people on his own."

"They are trying to recruit a lot of senior people, and called three people who [previously] worked for them," said a third source from within the fashion industry. "There are rumors of workforce reviews. It seems like Gap is being run like a bank. People are worried about layoffs. They are trying to get back to the old Gap ways."

That includes trying to recruit additional merchant talent and revive Gap's reputation for high quality, casual and comfortable American style. Only last Thursday, Pamela B. Wallack was named executive vice president, GapKids, babyGap and Gap Maternity, a new position, reporting to Gap brand president Cynthia Harriss. Wallack, who joins Gap on Dec. 12, was senior vice president and general merchandise manager of the juvenile and apparel divisions of Babies 'R' Us and Toys 'R' Us. She was involved in product development, merchandising, planning and allocation, and sourcing, and once had similar roles at Coach, The Disney Store, Country Road Australia and Laura Ashley. 

Last month, Charlotte Neuville was named executive vice president of design and product development for the Gap brand, overseeing all aspects of product design and development for men's and women's, replacing Pina Ferlisi. Neuville previously worked for New York & Co. Inc. and is a 20-year design veteran.

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