Abercrombie & Fitch CEO to Retire Effective Immediately

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Abercrombie & Fitch Co's (ANF) controversial Chief Executive Michael Jeffries will retire with immediate effect, capping more than two decades of being at the helm of the teen apparel retailer that is now struggling to turn around.

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The company's shares rose as much as 8 percent in early trading.

Jeffries, 70, has faced criticism for failing to stop the once-edgy retailer from losing market share to "fast fashion" chains such as Forever 21 and Inditex's Zara over the past few years.

Abercrombie said on Tuesday that a team led by Executive Chairman Arthur Martinez would manage day-to-day operations until a new CEO was named.

The team will include Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Ramsden, Abercrombie & Fitch brand President Christos Angelides and Hollister brand President Fran Horowitz.

After two and a half years of falling same-store sales, the company said in August that it would shed its traditional logo-centric apparel.

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Abercrombie removed Jeffries as chairman in January, bowing to investor pressure to reduce his control over the company. Martinez was then appointed non-executive chairman and added to the company's board.

Abercrombie said it had hired an executive search firm to identify internal and external candidates for the CEO position.

Jeffries was hired as CEO in 1992 to help Abercrombie shift from being a sports brand to a teen apparel brand. He helmed the company's transition to logo-centric apparel, promoting the merchandise with racy catalogs.

Jeffries tried to position the brand as one for "cool" and "attractive" teens, but stirred controversy when he said Abercrombie's clothes were not meant for "fat" people.

The brand became a must-have for teens in the 90s but started losing sheen a couple of years ago, as fashion-conscious youngsters shunned logo-centric apparel for fresher designs and prints.

Abercrombie shares were up 6.6 percent at $28.09 on the New York Stock Exchange. Up to Monday's close, the stock had fallen about 20 percent this year. (Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian and Kirti Pandey)

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