So where will Maureen Chiquet land?
After the news last week that Chiquet was being pushed out as global chief executive officer of Chanel Inc., executive recruiters were polled to see where she might end up next. With her international experience at a premier luxury goods firm, coupled with her mass market background running Banana Republic and working at Old Navy as executive vice president, merchandising, planning and production, as well as her stint at L’Oréal, recruiters believe she makes a very strong candidate.
“She’s incredibly desirable for a lot of reasons. She’s an enlightened and educated person, and is on the edge of new thinking,” one source said. Most recruiters said she’ll probably take time off and have lots of conversations before taking on another job.
Would Millard “Mickey” Drexler, her friend and former boss at The Gap, bring her in as an heir apparent at J. Crew? Could she take over at Tory Burch if co-ceo Roger Farah ever decided to retire? Would Richard Baker tap her to run Gilt? Perhaps she could be a successor to Leslie Wexner at L Brands? Recruiters believe it would have to be a prominent and sizable brand, multicategory and multichannel.
“She must be getting calls like crazy,” said Bobbie Lenga, managing partner at Russell Reynolds Associates in Chicago. Lenga said Chiquet might decide to do something like Angela Ahrendts did when she left as Burberry’s ceo to join Apple Inc. as senior vice president of retail and online stores.
“It’s still retail, but it’s a very different direction,” Lenga said. Business being what it is, there are probably a lot of discussions going on at a lot of companies about her, she said.
Some sources said Chiquet could consider something entirely outside the box, rather than assume another ceo position. It could be in the nonprofit world, or an entirely different business sector.
“She has to decide what type of venue she wants,” said Elaine Hughes, founder and ceo of E.A. Hughes & Co. She said a retailer might decide to create a new position for her. “She could wind up at Apple or she could wind up at Amazon. They’re expanding their apparel and presence in the fashion world. They’re the gorilla in the room.”
Hughes said Chiquet is also a good financial executive and not just a merchant. While she was at Chanel there was “little to no turnover.”
“She needs to take some time off and have a lot of conversations. She’s expanded herself globally. That’s one of the reasons that Stefan Larsson [formerly of Old Navy] got the Polo [ceo] job,” Hughes said.
The key to where Chiquet might go next is to figure out which executives are close to retirement and don’t have a number two in the wings. “She’s got such a wonderful track record. It’s her hors d’oeuvres table of what she wants to do. You take your time and you have lots of conversations,” Hughes said.
American executives don’t always last that long at overseas firms, she added. “Any American working for a European brand will have an expiration date. I don’t think the woman did anything wrong [at Chanel],” she said.
Karen Harvey, ceo of Karen Harvey Consulting Group, said, “I would imagine Maureen is getting numerous calls both from people she knows and people she doesn’t know. I would imagine she’ll take some time. In terms of speculation of where she goes, a Gilt or something similar with some scale, but a real hybrid of luxury fashion with digital and with international reach probably would be a good next step.”
Kate Benson, president of executive recruiters Martens & Heads, believes that a technology-focused position could be in her future. “The technology-focused companies are very interested in luxury goods executives,” she said, pointing to Ahrendts at Apple and Ganesh Srivats, who became vice president of North American sales at Tesla and was formerly senior vice president of Burberry.
She also thinks that Chiquet would make a great candidate for a top retail job. “Department stores are in crisis right now and need a visionary to help. Her background is not that much different from Josh Schulman [president of Bergdorf Goodman and NMG International] who’s doing a great job at Bergdorf Goodman,” she said.
Chiquet is excellent at hiring people and letting them do their jobs, Benson said. “She’s also very good at integrating businesses. Before Maureen, Chanel operated its fashion and beauty business very separately, and she integrated those divisions beautifully,” she said, adding that Chiquet’s core is fashion, but she’s a fashion executive “who truly understands the beauty world.”
Terre Simpson, president of Simpson Associates, said, “Frankly anyone who gets her [Chiquet] is very fortunate. As a consequence of her results, irrespective of what occurred, she brought a lot of benefits to that company. That skill set can be translated to other companies, perhaps different in their dynamics, but they would welcome her ability. She assisted in changing the culture and showed results in all the divisions.”
Simpson said Chiquet’s skill set would do well at a company like Michael Kors or LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.