J.Crew Group Inc. on Monday named former Gap Inc. Chief Executive Millard "Mickey" Drexler as its chairman and CEO, the second time in five months that the retailer known for classic, casual clothes has tapped a Gap-pedigreed executive to lead its turnaround effort.
Drexler, who turned Gap into a fashion icon known for khakis and jeans but later steered it off course, replaces Ken Pilot, who became chief executive at J.Crew just four months ago after leaving Gap.
Drexler also agreed to invest his own money in J.Crew, a closely held company whose catalog features an understated yuppie lifestyle.
Drexler oversaw the conversion of Gap's Banana Republic division in the 1990s from a safari-themed chain into an upscale concept now very similar to J.Crew.
Lately, J.Crew has been exhibiting many of Gap's old signs of distress: merchandise missteps and declining sales despite rapid store growth.
Pilot is resigning from J.Crew. The company said it had hoped he would stay, but it understood his decision.
A year ago, Pilot was president of Gap brand worldwide when Drexler split the operation in two, placing himself in charge of the domestic arm and bumping Pilot into the international arm.
"Drexler was the guy who promoted Ken to president of Gap brand, so he has been a supporter of him in the past. But there's not enough oxygen for both of them," said Hal Reiter, CEO of executive search firm Herbert Mines Associates.
Drexler and Texas Pacific Group, J.Crew's majority shareholder, will invest $20 million in the company in the form of an exchangeable debt instrument.
Drexler, 58, had announced plans to retire from Gap, the largest U.S. apparel chain with close to 4,300 stores, last May. He holds 3% of Gap's shares.