J.Crew promotes the head of Madewell to take over the company, as its CEO exits after just one ‘brutal’ year leading the struggling clothing company

  • J. Crew promoted Madewell head Libby Wadle as its new CEO, the company announced Tuesday.
  • Wadle will replace Jan Singer, who took over in January after the struggling private-equity-backed retailer went more than a year without a leader while trying to revive its brand.
  • “The continued executive turnover at J.Crew adds to the turbulence of an already brutal year for the retailer,” Moody’s analyst Raya Sokolyanska told Business Insider.
  • The pandemic has added challenges for J.Crew, which recently emerged from bankruptcy.
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J. Crew Group has named Libby Wadle, the head of Madewell, as its next CEO, the company announced in a press release Tuesday.

Wadle’s promotion comes less than a year after outgoing CEO Jan Singer took over the struggling retailer and caps off an already tough year for the company, which emerged from bankruptcy in September.

The private-equity-backed J. Crew has seen extensive turnover at the top level, with Wadle becoming its fourth CEO in under four years.

Longtime CEO Mickey Drexler stepped down in 2017 as J.Crew fell out of favour with consumers and was succeeded by Jim Brett, who lasted just 17 months before stepping down in November 2018 amid a clash over the company’s direction, after which the retailer went more than a year without a CEO until Singer’s appointment in January.

“Moving forward as a company under unified leadership, we will harness the power of our collective platforms and talented teams to ensure our brands can continue to inspire and grow,” said Wadle, who has spent the last 16 years in senior leadership roles at various J.Crew brands.

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Wadle takes over as economic fallout from COVID-19 has ravaged brick-and-mortar retailers, but J.Crew’s sales had been declining even before the pandemic hit. In May, J.Crew became the first major retailer to file for bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic, reaching a deal with its lenders to convert about $US1.65 billion of its debt into equity.

“The continued executive turnover at J.Crew adds to the turbulence of an already brutal year for the retailer. The brand’s turnaround, which was in process during 2019, is now more challenging given the ongoing disruption in apparel spending, as the pandemic continues to radically alter US consumers’ shopping habits,” Moody’s vice-president and senior analyst Raya Sokolyanska told Business Insider in a statement.