On Tuesday, January 22, J. Crew Group (JCG) issued a surprising announcement after the after the market close. Jeffrey Pfeifle, president, will be leaving the company on Feb. 1.
Pfeifle has been the number-two executive at J. Crew, reporting to chairman and chief executive Mickey Drexler, since 2003. He’s been a close associate of Drexler’s for even longer.
From the DNR report, “Jeff and I have had a successful collaboration for more than 15 years, with the last five at J. Crew. He has made significant contributions to our business. I very much appreciate our working relationship and wish him the best,” Drexler said.
No reason was given for his departure. The company has not named a successor, stating that Pfeifle’s responsibilities will be assumed by other members of the executive team. While there is no apparent near-term plan to fill his job, the role of president is a key one and the loss of Pfeifle is significant.
“I have been fortunate to work with Mickey and such a talented team, and I am proud of what has been accomplished at J.Crew,” said Pfeifle in a statement.
Drexler hired Pfeile away from Old Navy specifically to be J. Crew’s president. As New York magazine noted in a 2004 feature article on Drexler (still great reading by the way), “Where Drexler is a big personality with an over-the-top style, Pfeifle is a calm delegator with a dry wit. If it seems that Drexler is attempting to avoid the management mistakes of his past, he is.”
Business wise, things are going well. In November, the company reported third-quarter profit rose 3 percent on higher retail, Internet and catalog sales, beating Wall Street expectations.
My only concern is that the company may now lose its unique ability to update classic styles and quickly bring them to market at a reasonable price point and with strong quality control. By all accounts, Pfeifle has been the check for Drexler’s creative outpouring- making sure the trains run on time.
J. Crew has been making more of an effort to supplement its main line prep inspired basics with high-end special editions. That’s great as long as the core product line remains creative, innovative and wearable in the real world.
We’ll have to wait and see what the company’s next step is – I’m sure the analysts are too. As of noon today, shares are trading at $38.67, down 3.30% from yesterday’s close.