Neil Fiske Exiting CEO Post at Eddie Bauer

The company, which revealed the change internally, said Tuesday that it has hired a search firm to find Fiske’s successor.

Neil Fiske, Eddie Bauer’s chief executive officer who led the Seattle-based retailer through a bankruptcy action, will leave his post March 2.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Bauer, which revealed the change internally, said Tuesday that it has hired a search firm to find Fiske’s successor. No reason for Fiske’s departure was given.

David Chamberlain, executive chairman of Bauer, will serve as interim ceo. Fiske, who joined Bauer in 2007, will remain as a consultant to the company.

“[Neil] returned the brand to its core strengths and heritage: ‘guide tested and trusted,’ ” Chamberlain said. “At the same time, he kept a sharp focus on the modern outdoor enthusiast, with the successful launches of First Ascent and the Sport Shop Collection. Neil set the vision and strategy for the company’s return to its roots, and the board is committed to continuing this direction.”

Fiske, who led the successful turnaround of Bath & Body Works, took Eddie Bauer’s reins at a difficult time. The company, founded in 1920, had lost sight of its core customer base of enthusiasts in the Nineties and early 2000s, under former owner Spiegel. Fiske returned Bauer to its active-outdoor roots. Still, the retailer in 2009 filed for bankruptcy protection. Bauer cited the recession and the “crushing” debt it took on as part of Spiegel’s 2005 emergence from bankruptcy as reasons for the filing.

“Eddie Bauer is a profitable and well-capitalized business,” said Neale Attenborough, a member of the company’s board and an operating partner at Golden Gate Capital, the firm’s majority owner. San Francisco-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital won a bankruptcy court auction with a $286 million cash bid for Bauer.

Eddie Bauer, which rings up $2 billion in sales a year, became a privately held company in 2009. Its products are sold at about 350 stores in North America, through catalogues and at eddiebauer.com.