Tapestry CEO, Jide Zeitlin, to step down during ProPublica survey News and analysis, BoF Professional
NEW YORK, United States – Jide Zeitlin, the director of Tapestry, resigned from his position with the fashion retailer on Tuesday, a decision he believed was prompted by a journalist investigation into a ten-year-old allegation of misconduct.
Tapestry that owns Trainer and Kate Spade New York, also researched Zeitlin about having an inappropriate relationship with a woman 10 years ago. He reportedly used a fake name and pretended to be a photographer to ‘lure her into a romantic relationship,’ sources said The Wall Street Journal.
Later Tuesday, Zeitlin said in a post on LinkedIn that the allegations had been raised by a journalist, William Cohan, who, according to the director, initially intended to publish a “hit job” for Graydon Carter’s airmail, and later another publication. In an email to BoF, Cohan said he had worked on the story for “the last week” for ProPublica, an independent nonprofit investigative journalism company that has won six Pulitzer awards and a host of other awards.
Zeitlin declined BoF’s request for comment. A representative for Tapestry did not comment after the statement announcing Zeitlin’s dismissal on Tuesday, not mentioning the allegations.
In his post, Zeitlin wrote that he used to work as a photographer and took photos for the Associated Press and Boston Globe. At one point, he used a pseudonym “for privacy reasons when I rose through the ranks as a rare black banker.”
He admitted that he was in a relationship with a woman he was photographing – a model looking for headshots The Wall Street Journal – writing “the statements I drew too close to the above woman are true; however, our relationship started and ended 13 years ago. ”
He did not address the allegations of misconduct, but wrote that “it had nothing to do with my role at Tapestry, and I did not use power, wealth or position to advance that relationship.”
Zeitlin wrote that Cohan initially contacted him to profile him for Airmail, the email newsletter founded by former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Zeitlin gave him an interview, but said he heard only months later after Cohan worked for ProPublica.
Zeitlin said he stepped down fearing that Cohan’s allegations and potential story were too disturbing.
“I made a mistake in having a relationship with this woman and I dealt with that in my personal life at the time,” he wrote. “I cannot allow these accusations to be armed against me.”
Zeitlin, a seasoned financial executive who served on the Tapestry board of directors then known as Coach, Inc. 14 years ago, was appointed chairman of the board in 2014. In September 2019, when then-chief executive Victor Luis left the company, Zeitlin stepped into the position. He also became the interim director of the Coach brand after Joshua Shulman left the lead in March. He was one of four Black executives to run a Fortune 500 company.
Joanne Crevoiserat, Chief Financial Officer of Tapestry, who joined Abercrombie & Fitch at Tapestry in 2019, will serve as interim CEO until the company finds a replacement. Todd Kahn, the general manager and company secretary, will also temporarily assume the duties of Zeitlin’s Coach. A statement from Tapestry on Tuesday said it is looking at internal and external candidates to fulfill these roles.
Zeitlin’s exit comes at a particularly challenging time for Tapestry, which is still working to prove that Luis’ multi-brand luxury portfolio developed by Luis – in the form of European luxury groups – can be a successful strategy for long-term growth. International expansion has been fruitful, but major discounts and declining retail traffic have been major barriers in the United States.
The past two years have also seen management regularly change leadership: CEOs came and went with both Coach and Kate Spade New York, and the chief designer of Stuart Weitzman was fired for misconduct. Luis, who oversaw a turnaround at Coach with Designer Stuart Vevers, left in September after the company cut its full-year earnings expectations and the Kate Spade brand continued to struggle.
More recently, the coronavirus pandemic brought a serious hit to the company. The group closed or shortened hours at 90 percent of its stores in the most recent quarter, contributing a sales decline of nearly 20 percent and a net loss of $ 677.1 million. The company’s stock price fell 49 percent in 2020, but was up 4 percent on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Chantal Fernandez
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