Store logo signOpening of J Crew Store in Regent Street, London, Britain - 08 Nov 2013

J. Crew Group is making chief executive officer Jim Brett’s departure a little less painful for the executive.

Brett is getting a rich severance, including $1.25 million over the next 18 months, which is an amount equal to what was his base salary; a cash bonus payment of $2,812,500, over a period of 18 months, and another bonus of $750,000, representing what was unpaid from his signing bonus.

He’s also getting an additional 18 months of service credit with respect to time-vesting management equity that was granted to him.

After bolstering West Elm, the furniture retailer, Brett joined J. Crew 15 months ago on a mission to turn around the J. Crew Group, specifically the long struggling J. Crew brand.

The company said Saturday that a “mutual agreement” was reached by the board and Brett, but sources said Brett was forced out.

The J. Crew brand has been struggling for three years, grappling fashion misses, pricing issues and management changes. Not long ago, it restructured its debt to make it more manageable.

To offset difficulties at the J. Crew brand, the corporation has been growing its successful denim-based Madewell division and it recently started the Mercantile lower-priced division. Also, third-party brands are being added to the assortment.

But sources told WWD that Brett’s fall relaunch of the J. Crew brand lacked sufficient verve. There have also been reports that Brett’s idea to start another brand wasn’t liked by the board. Tensions between Brett and his new guard and the old guard at J. Crew are also said to have been a factor in his departure, with board members worried about more defections from the company.

On Monday, Brett took the unusual step of pleading his case on LinkedIn, writing, “I suggest you shop the site and the current holiday collection. You will find really differentiated and sophisticated product that creates a compelling brand narrative. You will find upgraded quality, accessible price points and style, all while still feeling iconic to J Crew.”

Arguing against those who say his relaunch of J. Crew was a flop, Brett said on LinkedIn that his strategy was to be “inclusive…having more fits, more sizes, and bigger ranges of beautiful color. And showing the products worn by a much more diverse group of people — a truer reflection of the diversity of our country. It’s not about watered-down product and mass merchandising — a point that has been misrepresented in several articles and posts….it was never about cheapening the core J. Crew brand, it was about introducing Mercantile products that are accessible to a broader range of customers.”

He also put in a plug for his record at West Elm, writing, “I always talk about how happy it makes me to see that West Elm has continued to grow and thrive after I’ve left. That means that we built a solid foundation and a great team. Now, I was there for a very long time and obviously I was only at J. Crew for a year and a half. But I think the team is great, the products are looking great, and I only hope for continued success for the company. The differences that led to my departure existed between a very small group of people — and this happens all of the time in corporate America. Just remember that the soul of the company has never been about any individual — it comes from the 10,000+ field and corporate associates that come to work every day with the intention to better serve the customer.”

Brett claimed to have “contributed in some way to the future success of the company” though others would disagree. He went on, as if delivering a state of the industry speech, about the future of retail, the consumer, how change can be scary, building communities and a host of politically correct topics like diversity and sustainability.

As reported, while the company searches for a new ceo, Brett’s responsibilities will be assumed by an office of the ceo comprised of Michael Nicholson, president and chief operating officer; Adam Brotman, president and chief experience officer; Lynda Markoe, chief administrative officer, and Libby Wadle, president of Madewell.


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