Michelle Gass Named Levi Strauss President, Future CEO

Michelle Gass is making the jump from the corner office at Kohl’s Corp. to Levi Strauss & Co., where she is set to succeed chief executive officer Chip Bergh in 18 months.

Gass, who starts her new gig on Jan. 2, will be responsible for leading the Levi’s brand and the company’s global digital and commercial operations.

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Bob Eckert, chairman of the denim giant, said: “We are delighted that an executive with Michelle’s background, experience and stature is joining as president to work side-by-side with Chip for a meaningful transition period before becoming CEO. Michelle’s deep retail and omni-channel experience combined with her track record of building brands and meaningful innovation is a perfect fit for the skills needed to lead this company for the long term and create significant value for our stakeholders.”

Bergh said: “One of my biggest legacies at LS&Co. will be my successor, passing the baton to someone who will take the company to the next level. I am thrilled not just about Michelle being my successor, but also about having the chance to work closely together during the transition. I have known Michelle for a decade and she has many of the qualities we value in our leaders: she is humble, approachable, transparent and driven by purpose and values. She has a track record of building brands and talent.

“Michelle also brings more than 25 years of retail and omni-channel experience, along with a demonstrated track record of innovation, driving transformational ‘big ideas’ not just on products but also business models. With this move, I am even more confident in this company’s future.”

At Kohl’s, which has been steadily feeling the pressure of activists investors, Gass will step down Dec. 2 and Tom Kingsbury will serve as interim CEO. The retailer’s board formed a committee led by Michael Bender and including Christine Day, Margaret Jenkins, Peter Boneparth and Tom Kingsbury, to oversee the search.

News of Gass’ departure comes a week before Kohl’s reports its third quarter financial results on Nov. 17.

Board chair Peter Boneparth stated, “The board is grateful for Michelle’s many contributions since she joined the company in 2013. Under her leadership, the company has driven a strategic transformation, expanded its partnerships and brand portfolio, and supported an inclusive and collaborative culture. On behalf of all Kohl’s associates, we wish her well in her next endeavor.”

Boneparth added, “Tom is highly regarded and perfectly equipped to take the role of interim CEO, and the board looks forward to working closely with him and the team to facilitate a smooth transition process and continue driving Kohl’s strategy.”

Gass stated, “I am incredibly proud of what the team at Kohl’s has accomplished and I’m very confident in their ability to drive continued innovation, growth and value for customers. Kohl’s associates and brand partners are an inspiration to me, and I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with this great team and company.”