Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said that chief operating officer Jonathan Ramsden is stepping down and will be resigning from the company.
Ramsden joined the company in 2008 as the chief financial officer. He reported to Arthur Martinez, the executive chair, who is acting chief executive officer.
Stacey Widlitz, president of SW Retail Advisors, speculated that Ramsden is leaving because he did not get the position of the group’s permanent ceo. “It’s hard to argue that his aspirations weren’t to be in a leadership role,” she said. However, an inside source at Abercrombie firmly insisted that Ramsden had removed his name from consideration for ceo in early 2015.
Widlitz pointed out that Fran Horowitz has been the leader in turning Hollister around and was moved up to be the group’s president and chief merchandising officer in December. Widlitz suggested that perhaps Horowitz would be named ceo in another six months.
The company has seen its executive offices go through numerous changes. In December, Christos Angelides, the executive heading the Abercrombie brand, was terminated and Horowitz was promoted.
During the time that Abercrombie has been without an official ceo, the company has begun a turnaround. Last year, comparable sales were down 3 percent, but this was better than comp sales of negative 8 percent in 2014. The stock is up over 21 percent for the past year after having suffered a 64 percent decline over the past five years.
“I have a strong attachment to Abercrombie & Fitch and to the fantastic group of people I work with every day. The decision to leave was a very difficult one, but I know that the company is in the hands of an outstanding leadership team and that we have built a strong foundation for growth and success,” said Ramsden. “I look forward to working with my colleagues over the next several weeks to ensure a smooth transition.”
The role will be assumed by other members of the Office of the Chairman, which includes Martinez; Horowitz; Joanne Crevoiserat, chief financial officer, and John Gabrielli, senior vice president of human resources.
Commenting on the announcement, Martinez said: “The board and I are grateful for Jonathan’s contributions to Abercrombie & Fitch over the past seven years, which have helped position the company for future profitable growth. We wish him all the best as he prepares to move into a new chapter in his life and career.”