Millard “Mickey” Drexler is a turnaround titan who righted ships at Ann Taylor, Gap and now at J. Crew Group, where he is the chairman and CEO.
A graduate of State University of New York-Buffalo, Drexler earned his MBA from Boston University. After an internship at Abraham & Strauss in 1968, he joined Bloomingdale’s as a buyer, mentored by the late great fashion director Katie Murphy. In 1980, he took over the money-losing Ann Taylor as president and CEO and built it into a larger, profitable chain.
His chief accomplishment is the legendary turnaround of Gap, where sales rocketed from $400 million to $14 billion during his 19-year tenure. He was named president in 1987 and CEO eight years later. He started the Old Navy chain, lifting the name from a bar in Paris, and turned it into a billion-dollar business in four years. In 2002, when Gap stores had grown too big, too numerous and a shift to trendy styles alienated the core customer, Drexler was fired.
Drexler’s micromanagement style wins him fans and foes alike, but he takes great pride in being highly accessible. In 2003, a year after he was shown the door at Gap, he took over as chief executive at J. Crew and led the struggling company through a highly successful IPO in 2006.