Who is Mike Jeffries?
The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, was the main subject of numerous controversies, the latest was related to his departure from the company amid widespread criticism of the company’s performance and 11 consecutive quarters of negative comparable-store sales.
Mike’s leadership was also the main subject of the Netflix documentary “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” released in April 2022. For more information about the controversial life of Mike Jeffries, you’ve come to the right place.
Early life, family, and education
Born Michael Stanton Jeffries under the zodiac sign of Cancer on 15 July 1944, Mike will soon celebrate his 79th birthday. He’s a native of Oklahoma USA, holds American nationality and his ethnicity is White. Mike was raised in Los Angeles, California by his father Donald R. Jeffries, an owner of a chain of party supply stores, and his wife, Shirley. Mike is their only son; he has two sisters, Cindy and Lynn.
When it comes to his educational background, he attended a local high school, and upon matriculating in 1962, he enrolled at Claremont McKenna College and later transferred to the London School of Economics from which he graduated with a BA degree in 1966. He continued his education at Columbia Business School, completing a Master’s degree in Business Administration in 1968.
Rise to fame with Abercrombie & Fitch, Controversies
Mike started his career in the fashion industry in the early ‘70s, working as a salesman for the clothing retail Paul Harris Stores, in Nashville, Tennessee. After receiving his MBA, Mike joined the management training program at the department store Abraham & Straus in New York City. During his time there, Mike worked with big fashion names such as Mickey Drexler and Allen Questorm.
In 1984, Mike founded his brand, called Alcot & Andrews, , targeted at career women, which was initially successful, but five years later fell into bankruptcy. Mike then began serving for Paul Harris, a clothing chain in the Midwest, then in the early ’90s, Mike was appointed as the CEO of the famous brand, Guess.
— Gossip Magazines (@gosipmagazines) October 24, 2014
Les Wexner, a CEO of LBrands, then known as The Limited, hired Mike in 1992 to enhance Abercrombie & Fitch. After declaring bankruptcy in 1988, Limited Brands purchased the company founded in 1892; Mike is credited with conceptualizing the company’s new design.
Abercrombie & Fitch was reinvented as a high-end clothing retailer for college students, and by the mid-’90s, the company had opened dozens of new stores. By 1996, LBrands was no longer actively involved in the company and eventually left it under Mike’s supervision.
During that period, the company sparked controversy among several groups, including the American Decency Association and the feminist movement, and besides negative headlines in the newspapers, the company faced a number of lawsuits. For example, a class action lawsuit was filed against Abercrombie and Fitch in 2003 alleging discrimination against African- American, Latino, and AsianAmerican applicants and employees. According to the New York Times, a $40 million settlement was reached in November 2004, forcing the corporation to promote diversity in its recruiting method,s and as a result conduct diversity and inclusion training, as depicted in the documentary “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch“.
One of the statements that Mike gave was that the company hires good-looking people and that their goal is to be market cool, good-looking people, adding that they don’t market to anyone other than that.
As if the statement was not clear enough, in his interview for Salon, Mike admitted that they are exclusionary, and that they represent sexuality healthily and playfully, not dark. As he put it, ‘it isn’t gay or straight, black or white, not about any labels’.
During the retail recession, Mike refused to lower prices or offer discounts at the company’s stores, which many commented on negatively.
His employment agreement was set to expire on 31 December 2008, however, just a few days before, the Abercrombie & Fitch corporate announced that Mike’s contract had been renewed.
The company faced a decline in 2008, due to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and its stock price dropped from an all-time high of $84.23 in October 2007 to a low of $14.64 in November 2008. Mike received a total compensation of over $45 million, although most of this was in the form of stock options.
In 2012, Mike owned about 2.9% of the company’s shares, making it tough to remove him without his permission. At the time, his most recent contract provided for compensation of more than $100 million if he lost his job due to a change in ownership. In December 2013, it was reported that Mike had agreed to a new contract that would correlate his salary to the performance of the company. The market commentator, Herb Greenberg, named Mike the worst CEO of 2013, pointing out that the share price for Abercrombie & Fitch had collapsed by 40% during 2013.
Mike resigned as CEO of the company on 9 December 2014. Shares soared 8% after the announcement, the biggest one-day rise in more than nine months.
Who is his life partner?
Mike Jeffries has been the subject of numerous rumors, but he’s quite secretive about the facts from his personal life before he became the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s known that he was married to Susan Hansen and that the two have a son together, but about whom nothing is known.
Salon.com has stated that Mike is a gay man, and that for years he has been living separately from Susan. In 2013, it was reported that Mike lives with his partner, Matthew Smith, and their three dogs. Matthew, even though he wasn’t an employee at Abercrombie & Fitch, allegedly had as much power and influence as any company’s executive. Sources claim that he was involved in matters such as the company’s growth plan and real estate expansion, and that he regularly attended internal meetings.
As of May 2023, the couple is still together.
How rich is Mike Jeffries?
According to sources, when Mike stepped down as Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, he didn’t leave with empty pockets, but with a hefty $27 million retirement paycheck. He still owns 2.9% of shares in Abercrombie & Fitch, and reportedly, as of May 2023, his net worth has been estimated at over $300 million.