Neil Fiske

Marquee Brands has named its first chief executive officer — Neil Fiske.

Fiske, a 20-year veteran who left Gap Inc. brand as president and ceo in January, will manage a portfolio with $3 billion of retail sales across 11 brands including Martha Stewart, BCBG Max Azria, Ben Sherman, Dakine, Sur La Table, Body Glove, Emeril Lagasse, Motherhood Maternity, A Pea in a Pod and Bruno Magli.

“Neil brings world-class multibrand operational experience to Marquee Brands and has a track record of successfully building and repositioning brands,” said Sam Porat, managing director of Neuberger Berman, the investment fund that owns Marquee. “We are very excited to have him lead the team as the company’s first chief executive officer. Neil has the leadership track record and breadth of business experience we believe are critical to lead Marquee.”

Marquee, which was founded in 2014, has been run by Michael DeVirgilio, president, and Cory Baker, chief operating officer, both of whom remain and will work with Fiske, the company said.

“Marquee Brands has one of the best portfolios in the industry with premium brands that are truly meaningful to the consumer, have clear identities and competitive positionings, and a runway of growth ahead of them,” said Fiske. “I am fortunate to join a company that has a proven formula for success, a strong team adapting quickly to this ever-changing environment, and investing at a time when many are in retreat. With the full backing of Neuberger Berman, I look forward to working closely with Michael DeVirgilio, Cory Baker and the executive team to grow this business and capitalize on the rich set of opportunities so clearly in front of us.”

Fiske told WWD that he believes Marquee has “a strong portfolio of brands now and [we] see substantial growth opportunity in all of them. That’s job one — unlocking the value right in front of us. Second, we will be expanding that portfolio in a thoughtful, strategic, proactive manner — not just reacting to the ‘deal of moment.’ Third, we will be strengthening the operating platforms underneath all our brands so they can grow more quickly and connect more deeply with their consumers.”

He said it was likely that Marquee will “go deeper and bigger in the sectors we are in to build on our domain expertise and leverage cross brand marketing opportunities. As with the brands we own, we believe the sectors we are in today have tremendous opportunities, particularly with the changes in consumer demand we are seeing. Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and Sur La Table are great examples of that,” Fiske explained.

“As we continue to build and evolve the Marquee Brands business model, it was the right time for us to find a ceo with the experience and strategic foresight to take advantage of the unprecedented market opportunities ahead of us,” said Zachary Sigel, managing director of Neuberger Berman. “Neil shares our vision for Marquee and will position us well to fully capitalize on the current dislocation across the retail and consumer industry. We welcome him to the Marquee Brands team, and we are excited about the future.”

Marquee, like Authentic Brands Group and others, is a brand management firm. It has been in the mix to buy many of the names that have recently become available as a result of the pandemic, including Brooks Brothers. But unlike many companies owned by financial firms, Marquee has a long-term view of its properties and invests in the brands to position them to be more valuable to retailers and customers.

Fiske said Marquee thinks of itself “as brand builders not brand managers. That means creating brand equity along with financial returns. The core of any brand is the long-term relationship with the customer based on an emotional as well as functional set of benefits. That will always be front and center for us.”

Before joining the Gap, where he spent 21 months, Fiske was ceo of Billabong International. He also spent five years as president and ceo of Eddie Bauer and served as ceo of Bath and Body Works. He began his career at Boston Consulting Group. He also has private equity experience as a retail industry partner for Onex. He has been named WWD’s “Marketer of the Year” and “Retailer of the Year,” and is the coauthor of the brand-building book “Trading Up: The New American Luxury.”

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