What Kind of CEO Worries About What Underwear and Cologne You Wear While the Stock Declines by Half?

Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO is in the public eye for questionable expenditures and outrageous personal demands. And all this while his company’s stock keeps falling.

Discrimination lawsuit: Abercrombie & Fitch CEO tells flight crew what underwear to wearAlthough Abercrombie & Fitch’s stock has taken a 55.2-percent nosedive year-over-year, it doesn’t seem to have bothered CEO Mike Jeffries. He’s been living like a celebrity with his own private jet and a crew of male-model flight attendants that wait on him and his three dogs.

It’s all precisely outlined in this 47-page “rulebook” that recently was uncovered by Bloomberg. The manual includes guidelines such as:

  • All attendants must wear A&F-branded polo shirts, flip-flops, boxer briefs and jeans that “sit at the hips.” They must also “spritz” Abercrombie & Fitch #41 cologne on their uniforms for the duration of their shifts.
  • The crew must not leave fingerprints on any of the planes interior surfaces and must vacuum the plane’s carpeting in “smooth, even lines.”
  • When Jeffries’ three dogs accompany him, each has its own seating arrangement, detailed in a five-point instruction list.
  • In the bathroom, exactly eight washcloths need to be tri-folded and placed directly behind the vanity.

And you thought your employee handbook was grueling? Read all the bizarre policies Jeffries’ cabin attendants had to follow.

The controversy is the result of yet another discrimination lawsuit being filed against the company. This time the plaintiff is Jeffries’ former pilot, Michael Stephen Bustin, 55, who claims that he was fired in 2009 because A&F had “the express intention of hiring younger pilots who were more in keeping with … a ‘youthful, all-American style.'” Read more about Bustin v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. on NYTimes.com.

Craig Stapleton, lead independent director for Abercrombie, said in an email statement that the company’s board supports Jeffries, while General Counsel Rocky Robins added that A&F “doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation” and that Bustin’s lawsuit “is without merit.”

Jeffries is under contract until February 2014, and if the company is sold and he loses his job, he could be awarded up to $105.6 million—a hard loss when A&F only netted $127.7 million the past year, according to Bloomberg’s coverage. If he is fired with cause, Jeffries could still receive $11.6 million.

So what makes a great CEO? See the difference: We show you what forthright diversity leadership and adherence to values look like. Watch these video clips of exemplary CEOs from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Kellogg Company, Ernst & Young and more.

Can Abercrombie & Fitch come back from the obvious disconnect its CEO has with the rank-and-file employees? Will its stockholders continue to invest in light of the negative publicity?

See real-time how this publicity is affecting Abercrombie & Fitch’s current stock and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • We might be playing by a different rule book, but I like ceo’s that make a positive difference to the world and the employees like.

    Whether or not the shareholders become wealthy, or people really like their product should be a side effect.

  • So what? Hugh Heffner lives in a Playboy Mansion sorrounded by BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GIRLS. He doesn’t pay them to have sex with him, but I’m sure the girls who refuse to do that won’t get to live at the Mansion for long.

    So where’s the DiversityInc article condemning Hugh Heffner? Seems to me you’re against the free market.

    By the way, I would never shop at Abercrombie because I’m not a good looking guy and I resent how their brand is only for good looking young guys. Maybe that’s the reason the company is losing money and not the CEO and his private jet.

    Perhaps if Abercrombie believed in PHYSICAL diversity, their sales might be better.

    On the other hand, FUBU (For Us By Us Black Folks) is a company worth billions of dollars, yet they don’t believe in diversity.

    • Luke Visconti

      Read the story. Hugh Hefner isn’t being sued for age discrimination—which normally wouldn’t rise to the level that warrants coverage by DiversityInc, but the circumstances are so bizarre (there’s a link to Abercrombie’s “Aircraft Standards” manual in the story—read it) that I couldn’t resist. I find the Aryan-youth-looking ad-campaign imagery that Abercrombie forces down our throats on billboards creepy enough; this story lets you see what’s wiggling around under the rock. What makes it all the more interesting is that the genius management over there has halved the stock price in the past year while obsessing about what underpants the attendants are wearing and where little dogs are sitting. (The dogs have assigned seats, you know.) I wasn’t the only one fascinated by it; this story drove more traffic than anything we’ve done in a year. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. However, judging by the ridiculous rulebook of Abercrombie & Fitch, apparently not! To discriminate against any segment of our population should be offensive to all that expect fair and equitable treatment.

    When we say that you are too old or you are too fat, we are saying that person is not good enough to be a part of this society. If working for A&F requires you to be young and look a certain way, then I pity them for being so self-centered. If they really want to bounce back economically, then perhaps they need to consider that segment of the population that they have so blatantly discriminated against.

  • Looks like Jeffries has had a few bad surgeries/procedures trying to keep up that youthful appearance.
    But I have to ask, how in the world did this guy get to be A&F’s ceo? There’s clearly something wrong with his approach to corporate management.

  • Luke,
    After I showed this to my teenage daughter, she says she will never shop at A & F again. So I think their stock will decline further unless their Board does some serious diversity work with its CEO and staff. You are right about their Aryan Nation ads being creepy, and they don’t appeal to their diverse young consumers, so why do they persist on putting them out? Does their ad agency not understand the demographic trends in the US or the world? Best regards, Grace in Midwest

    • Luke Visconti

      I think it’s far deeper than their ad agency. In 2005, Abercrombie paid $50 million to settle a lawsuit for employment discrimination against Blacks, Latinos, Asians and/or women—there were more than 10,000 people who submitted claims in this class action. (See AFjustice.com for details.) As part of the consent decree, Abercrombie agreed to have better representation in its marketing materials. Apparently that lesson didn’t stick. As Maya Angelou said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Is this called a US Company while nothing is made here and most of USA isn’t even wanted as customers?
    How can store employees be held on call without pay?
    They did add more “color” in advertizing, but aren’t most of their problems in employment?

    Small fines don’t get them to make enough appropriate change.

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