Bonnie Brooks, vice chairman of the Hudson’s Bay Co., will retire on Dec. 31, the Toronto-based retailer said Wednesday. Brooks is a 40-year veteran of fashion retail and marketing and one of the industry’s most visible and popular leaders.

She spent more than eight years at HBC, and from 2008 to 2012 was the first female chief executive officer and president of Hudson’s Bay.

“It has been a privilege to work with the team at Hudson’s Bay Company, a true company of adventurers,” Brooks said. “We have seen tremendous change since I joined the company, and I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished together.”

Brooks had been nominated by Chico’s to its board, but Barington Capital, an activist investment firm, has been opposed to the choice on conflict-of-interest grounds. Specifically, it argued that Hudson’s Bay nameplates Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor “directly compete” with Chico’s brands. Chico’s has refuted that claim, stating, “Neither Hudson’s Bay Co. nor any of the department stores within its portfolio, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, are competitors in any practical sense to Chico’s FAS or any of its brands….Our brands serve different price points, different geographic areas and different consumer demographics.”

Brooks’ career included 12 years at Holt Renfrew, also based in Toronto, where she led the retailer’s merchandising and marketing functions. After that, she spent 11 years in Hong Kong, where she led a reinvention of the Lane Crawford luxury department stores in Asia.

In 2008, Brooks returned to Canada to join HBC as ceo and president of Hudson’s Bay, and in 2012 became president of the company’s department store group with the integration of HBC’s Lord & Taylor division.

“Bonnie has been a very strong leader who, from Day One, was integral to the reinvention of Hudson’s Bay,” stated Richard Baker, governor and executive chairman of HBC. “We are extremely grateful for her contributions to the company and wish her well in her retirement.”