The CEO had made controversial statements about the exclusivity of the brand

By Alexandra Zaslow
December 09, 2014 07:00 PM
David Pomponio/FilmMagic

Abercrombie & Fitch announced Tuesday that CEO Mike Jeffries is stepping down from his position, effective immediately.

The decision was made by Jeffries, 70, and the board of directors. Investors in the company have been trying to get him to step down due to the controversies he’s brought to the brand and falling profits.

In a 2006 interview with Salon, Jeffries admitted that his brand was marketed toward “cool kids.”

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries told the online magazine. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

On top of the controversial comments, Abercrombie has also seen a recent decline in sales. In an effort to increase sales – which have dropped 12 percent in the third-quarter, according to Business Insider – the company has been redesigning stores and no longer sells its signature logo tees.

Arthur Martinez, 75, who has held the position of non-executive chairman since Jeffries lost his job as chairman of the company earlier this year, is now stepping in as executive chairman while the company searches for a replacement.

“It is impossible to overstate Mike Jeffries’s extraordinary accomplishments in building Abercrombie & Fitch to the iconic status the brand now enjoys,” Martinez said in a statement released Tuesday. “From a standing start two decades ago, his creativity and imagination were the driving forces behind the company’s growth and success.”

Jeffries turned a retail chain geared toward an older demographic into a hip brand. He became CEO in 1992.

“It has been an honor to lead this extraordinary talented group of people,” Jeffries said in Tuesday’s press release. “I am extremely proud of your accomplishments. I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the company forward in the next phase of its development.”