Gap Inc. saw another important management shift yesterday with the resignation of Maureen Chiquet, president of the retailer’s $1.9 billion Banana Republic division. Unfettered by any employment contract to Gap, Chiquet is assuming the president-elect position at Chanel. She’s leaving for Paris after her stint at Banana Republic officially ends this May.
A former L’Oreal executive, Chiquet joined Gap Inc. in 1989 as executive vice president of merchandising of the Old Navy division. In August 2002, former CEO Mickey Drexler promoted Gary Muto, then head of Banana Republic, to president of the company’s core Gap division. Drexler named Chiquet as Muto’s successor. A month later, Disney exec Paul Pressler became Gap Inc.’s new CEO.
Chiquet’s departure is the latest in a series of management changes since operations-focused Pressler took over last September. Since his appointment, the former Disney Theme Parks and Resorts CEO has been restructuring the retailer’s management ranks, promoting some seasoned Gap veterans, and poaching a fair share from his old company.
Last month, Pressler scored a coup by hiring Kohl’s CFO Patti Johnson. Before joining Kohl’s, Johnson—who will serve as CFO of Gap Inc.’s Old Navy division—worked in the stores and family restaurant divisions of Disney. Johnson’s stellar record at Kohl’s means more positive buzz to Gap’s turnaround team, made up of such Disney alums as CFO Byron Pollitt and Gap Direct president Toby Lenk.
During her short tenure, Chiquet was credited with refining the slumping brand’s style, focusing the 441 stores’ merchandise assortments, and strengthening marketing campaigns. Recent same-store sales gains at the division (estimated to be as much as 2 percent up for April, compared to a 13 percent decline in 2002) have contributed to Gap Inc.’s recent mild turnaround. "Gap Inc. is unfortunately losing a very experienced and talented merchandiser," says Bear Stearns analyst Dana Telsey.
Chiquet’s position presents a chance for Pressler to further rebuild the creative side of his management team. He is already searching for a replacement for Chiquet, and is reviewing internal and external candidates. Gary Muto, Julie Rosen and Deborah Lloyd will guide Banana Republic through the transition. Rosen has been Banana Republic’s senior vice president of merchandising since June 2001, and Lloyd, the division’s executive vice president of design, has been with Gap since fall 2001. The two women are the obvious internal candidates for Banana Republic’s top job, Telsey says.