Gap’s Mark Breitbard Said Headed to Gymboree

Also said to be departing is Evan Price, a vice president of finance for Gap North America, and Cynthia Ng Villaluz, global vice president of women’s design.

Mark Breitbard, who was promoted to president of Gap North America just three months ago, is said to be leaving the company to become chief executive officer of The Gymboree Corp., according to sources.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

While a win for Gymboree, Breitbard’s move would be a blow to Gap’s turnaround efforts. In November, Breitbard was tapped as Gap North America’s top merchant, reporting to Steve Sunnucks, global president of the Gap brand, as part of a sweeping reorganization of the leadership of its divisions along brand lines. The international, online, outlet and franchise operations were integrated into four silos — Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and a new Innovation, Digital Strategy and New Brands division. The company must now reorganize again to fill the void created by Breitbard’s departure.

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Also said to be departing Gap is Evan Price, who is a vice president of finance for Gap North America. He’s expected to be joining Gymboree as well.

Another Gap executive, Cynthia Ng Villaluz, global vice president of women’s design, has joined J.C. Penney Co. Inc. as vice president, brand management, design and trend for women’s. Gap had no comment on Breitbard or Price. Gymboree officials could not be reached for comment.

“As jcp adds new brand and design partners such as Joe Fresh, Nanette Lepore and Georgina Chapman, jcp’s internal design teams under Nick Wooster’s leadership will simultaneously reimagine our own brands, such as Liz Claiborne, Worthington and Arizona. The addition of industry design leaders like Cynthia will truly help us elevate our product offering to help Americans look and live better everyday,” said Ron Johnson, Penney’s chairman and chief executive officer. Wooster is senior vice president of product development and design.

At Gymboree, the $1.2 billion children’s wear retailer, Breitbard would be succeeding Matthew K. McCauley, who resigned in September.

Kip M. Garcia, the company’s president, has been filling in as interim ceo. Gymboree is owned by Bain Capital and, like Gap Inc., is based in San Francisco. Gymboree sells children’s apparel and accessories under the Gymboree, Gymboree Outlet, Janie and Jack and Crazy 8 brands, as well as play programs for children under the Gymboree Play and Music brand, and women’s clothing and accessories under the Shade brand.

Breitbard will be missed at Gap, where he established an enviable track record and was even recruited back to the organization in 2009 as Old Navy’s chief merchandising and creative officer. At that time, officials noted that Breitbard’s role was to spark creative juices, create a higher level of products and develop new categories. In 2010, Breitbard became head of Gap’s Kids and Baby businesses, which have been among the retailer’s more successful areas.

During his first stint at Gap Inc. from 1997 to 2005, Breitbard held merchandising jobs at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. For about a year, he was the personal assistant to Millard “Mickey” Drexler, Gap Inc.’s ceo at the time and now J. Crew Group Inc.’s chairman and ceo. In that role, Breitbard was involved in a range of activities from organizational and strategic issues to writing speech copy. He was also once head of men’s merchandising at Banana Republic.

From 2005 to 2009, Breitbard worked at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. as senior vice president and general manager over the Ruehl division, and later at Levi Strauss & Co. as president of the retail division. His background includes running a start-up juice business in Europe called Fresh Europe. He’s considered creative and entrepreneurial on the product side of the business, rather than a retail operator. “He’s a strong leader, well-liked and a business driver,” said one source.

Last year, Gap Inc. showed improvements and reversed years of same-store sales declines and generated lots of cash, leading to a $1 billion share repurchase program, which was unveiled last week, as well as the acquisition of the Intermix specialty chain for $130 million. Last week, Standard & Poor’s raised its fiscal 2013 earnings per share estimate on Gap by 2 cents to $2.27; raised the estimate on fiscal 2014 by 25 cents to $2.50, and upped the target price by $8 to $35.