Marigay McKee is stepping down as president of Saks after a little over a year in what appears to be a surprise shake-up at the company. She will be replaced by Marc Metrick, a well-liked executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the Hudson’s Bay Co. According to WWD, the problem involved McKee’s personality:
With McKee, “There was never a question of taste level or where she wanted to take the business. She is a very smart, talented lady,” said a source close to Saks. “Culture and fit were the challenge. They saw that almost from day one.”
“It just wasn’t a good fit,” Richard Baker, governor and executive chairman of Hudson’s Bay, confirmed with WWD. Said another source, “She was tough on talent,” said a source. “A lot of very good people, merchants and other functions, left. Stylistically, it just didn’t work.” The article continued:
“Another source said sometimes people would come out of meetings with McKee crying. She once acknowledged she’s been called crazy lots of times and that she doesn’t scare easily. “
McKee’s strategy to take Saks in a more high-fashion direction isn’t necessarily going anywhere, however:
“If anything, the strategy will only accelerate,” stressed Jerry Storch, chief executive officer of Hudson’s Bay Co. “We will continue to elevate the brand, continue with the significant investment in New York with the flagship store, continue with entry to Canada next and all the work on the digital paradigm.”
McKee came to Saks after working her way up at Esteé Lauder and Harrods; she spent 13 years at the latter, and has been credited with bringing the once-stuffy British retailer into a more modern, cutting-edge realm. Fashionista noted that McKee is scheduled to give a talk at NYU on Tuesday about being the president of Saks, suggesting that she has only recently learned of this decision.
According to WWD, McKee said in a recent interview: “I definitely thought getting new brands would be among the toughest things, the brand matrix. But as a Brit coming to America, it’s the culture. Fitting into the culture. Having people understand you. Not second guessing. Trying to understand. How to best fit in. We speak the same language, but we are separated by an ocean and a different sense of humor.”
This shakeup certainly smacks of sexism. If McKee were not female, perhaps her undoubtedly “sharp elbows” would have been better tolerated. However, I have personally heard reports of nightmarish interactions with McKee, leading me to believe that a shift in leadership might have actually been warranted. Time will tell.
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