Former Levi’s executive Robert Hanson has gotten himself a new gig.

This story first appeared in the November 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

American Eagle Outfitters said late Tuesday that Hanson will become its new chief executive officer, effective Jan. 30. Hanson will succeed James O’Donnell, who has been at the head of the Pittsburgh-based retailer since 2002.

“After an extensive search, we believe Robert is the ideal person to build on AEO’s strengths, maximize our portfolio of brands across North America and propel our brands into new markets across the world,” said Jay Schottenstein, chairman of American Eagle. “He brings extensive experience in the apparel industry and global brand positioning. In Robert, we have an individual who possesses a unique blend of merchandising, innovative marketing and strong operational skills, with a proven ability to inspire and lead creative apparel and retailing teams.”

“AEO’s brands are highly relevant to today’s consumers, with incredible future potential,” said Hanson. “I look forward to starting on Jan. 30, 2012 and working with the talented team of associates to continue to build on the very strong foundation that is already in place.”

Since March, the retailer has been searching for a successor to O’Donnell, 70, who informed the board at that time of his intention to retire. O’Donnell agreed to stay on until a successor was named and through a transition period.

About two weeks ago, Hanson, who had spent more than two decades with Levi Strauss & Co., most recently as global president of the Levi’s brand, resigned from his position. According to sources, Hanson had been disappointed not to have been named ceo of Levi’s when the San Francisco-based jeansmaker appointed Chip Bergh ceo in September. Bergh, a former Procter & Gamble executive, succeeded John Anderson, who had retired from Levi’s after a 32-year career there. In an e-mail to Levi’s licensing partners, Hanson wrote: “After an incredible, almost 24-year career with Levi Strauss & Co., it’s time for a new chapter in my life, time for me to ‘Go Forth,’” a reference to Levi’s current advertising campaign. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Hanson will receive $2.29 million, payable in installments over 18 months, and a lump-sum payment of $600,000 payable 30 days after his resignation becomes effective Nov. 27.

Hanson, 48 will bring a fresh energy to American Eagle, which operates nearly 1,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada and targets 15- to 25-year-old girls and guys.

Gilbert Harrison, chairman of Financo, Inc., who spent six years on the board of American Eagle, said Hanson’s “ability to grow American Eagle will be significant and he will create value for the brand, especially as it grows globally in its next phase.”

Last week, American Eagle revealed sales for the third quarter ended Oct. 29 increased 11 percent to $832 million, compared with $753 million last year. Comparable-store sales rose 5 percent. The retailer will report third-quarter earnings on Nov. 30.

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