J. Crew CEO Abruptly Quits

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J. Crew Group Inc. CEO Mark Sarvary has left the retailer and cataloger of apparel and accessories, the company said yesterday.

The departure was immediate and by "mutual agreement," the New York company said in a prepared statement. Sarvary also will vacate his seat on J. Crew's board of directors.

No reason was cited for Sarvary's sudden departure. He had spent three years with the company.

A search has begun to find a replacement with a merchandising background.

"Our hope is to have a new CEO in place by the end of the second quarter," said Owen Blicksilver, spokesman for Texas Pacific Group, a leveraged buyout firm that owns 60 percent of J. Crew.

Formerly at Nestle, Sarvary became CEO of the privately held J. Crew after Texas Pacific in 1997 bought a majority stake in the retailer. Since then, the company has expanded to include 140 retail stores and 41 factory outlet stores, a catalog business and jcrew.com.

E-commerce accounts for almost half of the sales.

But like many specialty apparel retailers -- Gap Inc., for instance -- J. Crew has struggled to keep growing sales of its preppy-style clothes. A recent sales report said the company was finding it hard to nail down a popular yet profitable product mix.

Sales in 2001 were $778 million, down from $826 million in the year before. This is despite 34 new stores opening in 2001.

According to earnings reports at the time, J. Crew's falling sales were blamed on the slowing economy, retail competition and merchandising slip-ups. Growth for this first quarter is forecasted at breakeven cash flow.

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