By Chris Hoenig
In the end, Mike Jeffries’ discriminating tastes cost him his job.
Jeffries is stepping down as the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch effective immediately. His ouster comes as the once desirable clothing line has faded behind lower-priced competitors, its popularity dropping like a rock.
“I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the company forward in the next phase of its development,” Jeffries said in a statement.
Jeffries famously admitted that he discriminated against plus-sized women. “A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong,” he said. “Are we exclusionary Absolutely.”
It didn’t take long for A-list celebrities from Kirstie Alley to Miley Cyrus to turn their backs on the brand, publicly shunning the clothier from their closets.
Abercrombie lost a federal discrimination lawsuit under Jeffries’ watch, with a judge ruling that the company illegally fired a Muslim employee because she insisted on wearing a head scarf to work.
With Jeffries at the helm, Abercrombie was sued at least five different times for discrimination against employees.
In another instance, a former pilot sued for age discrimination. Michael Stephen Bustin claimed that he was fired because Jeffries preferred younger employees. In the course of the lawsuit, a handbook detailing the extreme lengths to which flight attendants on Jeffries’ private flights had to go was uncovered—right down to the kind of underwear they were required to wear.
Still, despite a 55 percent drop in stock price, Jeffries managed to hang on.
Until earlier this year, that is, when Jeffries was relieved of his duties as Chairman of the company. He was kept on a $1.5 million base salary as CEO.