Can Old Navy’s boss lead a turnaround at Gap Inc.?
Gap Inc. didn’t have to look far for a new chief executive to replace its former CEO, Art Peck. The specialty clothing retailer has announced that Sonia Syngal, CEO of Old Navy since 2016, will be the next executive to lead the company, effective March 23.
“We sought a dynamic leader who could bring a deep respect for our customers and make the decisions necessary to deliver value from our portfolio of brands over the long term,” said Bob Fisher, interim Gap Inc. CEO and chairman of the company, in a statement. “Sonia has all of the characteristics and experiences needed to effectively execute against the work ahead. She is an excellent operator who drives innovation and decisive action, and she leads with both vision and heart.”
Ms. Syngal, who has been with Gap since 2004, will also take a seat on the company’s board.
While short on specifics, Ms. Syngal said, “I’m committed to fully realizing the potential of our portfolio and the advantage of our scale, with a focus on strengthening the love that our millions of customers have for our brands. To do that, we must better prioritize initiatives and capabilities that will improve execution and drive value creation.”
The move to put her in charge of the overall business is interesting in light of the on-again, off-again decision by Gap Inc. to spin off and then not spin off Old Navy. In the spinoff scenario, Ms. Syngal was to lead Old Navy as a standalone business.
Gap’s management and board came to the decision to keep Old Navy in January, concluding that the complexity of making it happen and the relative value of doing so would negatively affect the business.
At the time of the decision, Mr. Fisher said that he did expect the process of exploring a spinoff would benefit Gap going forward after it had identified “operational inefficiencies” and other areas where it could improve performance across its banners.
“We have learned a lot and intend to operate Gap Inc. in a more rigorous and transformational manner that empowers our growth brands, Old Navy and Athleta, and appropriately focuses on profitability for Banana Republic and Gap brand,” Mr. Fisher said. “Our board is focused on supporting this work and appointing new leadership with the appropriate experience necessary to lead a portfolio of retail brands and to support our transformation efforts.”
Gap Inc. is set to announce its fourth-quarter and full-year earnings on March 12. Former CEO Peck stepped down from the company in November after the Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy all reported same-store sales declines.
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Sonia Syngal the right executive to lead Gap Inc. at this time? What do you think are likely to be her biggest priorities, and what will she need to accomplish her goals?