A Nigerian-born CEO of $3.7 billion fashion house, Tapestry which houses fashion brands including Coach and Kate Spade with revenues of $6 billion in 2019 has resigned.
Jide Zeitlin announced his resignation from the company on Tuesday.
Since news broke of his resignation, reactions have increased on social media mostly expressing support for the former Boss of Tapestry.
Explaining what happened, he took to Linkedin to share his side of the story and wrote:
I write shortly after having resigned as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. There are articles in this morning’s press that speculate as to the reason for my resignation. I have long believed in the importance of telling one’s own life story, rather than allowing others to control the narrative. I believe I have handled myself with dignity and integrity. Over the last 14 years as my role has evolved from being a member of the Board of Directors, to being Chairman, to being Chief Executive Officer, I have consistently put the Company first, and I want you to hear about the events of recent months directly from me.
This chapter to my life story began shortly after I was named CEO. A journalist named William Cohan approached the Company telling us that he planned to write a profile of me for Airmail an online periodical edited by Graydon Carter. He claimed to want to write a comprehensive profile about my life’s journey from West Africa to Wall Street to Tapestry. I did not know Cohan, but he had included a complimentary reference to me in a book he wrote nine years ago about Goldman Sachs, my former employer. I initially declined Cohan’s interview request as I believed it was too early in my tenure as CEO. Over a number of months, Cohan was dogged in his pursuit of an interview and I ultimately agreed to sit down with him.
It was not until a few months later, roughly six months ago, it became clear that Cohan’s article might include allegations that were made 11 years ago during my U.S. Senate confirmation process when President Obama nominated me to be an ambassador to the United Nations. At its core, was the allegation that I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman whom I had met while pursuing my interest in photography.
My father was a foreign correspondent and I was taught photography as a boy by photographers who worked with him. I spent a summer working in the AP photography department and over the years have been published in publications such as the Boston Globe. For privacy reasons when I was rising through the ranks as a rare Black banker, I sometimes used a pseudonym, based on my middle name “James,” when photographing strangers.
The allegations that I drew too close to the above woman are true; however, our relationship began and concluded 13 years ago, it had nothing to do with my role at Tapestry, and I did not use power, wealth, or position to further that relationship. Cohan’s inordinate focus on this dated matter was and remains odd and unsettling.
After a period of unexplained silence, Cohan resurfaced one month ago with a long list of aggressive questions that appeared in part intended to force the Tapestry board to consider his allegations. In this incarnation, Cohan was no longer working for Airmail, but now intended to publish an article on a website run by a little known foundation where he is an officer and where many of the foundation’s funders are hedge funds, often short sellers. At least one of the funders has traded in Tapestry stock. Cohan has little, if any, editorial oversight.
Over the last month, I have been working with legal counsel and other advisors trying to understand Cohan’s motivation. Advisors tell me they believe Cohan’s approach is, and likely always was, motivated by something other than simply a journalist in pursuit of truth. They also tell me that what he is doing is a highly unusual hit job. Among other actions, he has repeatedly refused to engage with my spokeswoman and he sent e-mails to various people surrounding me that an investigative firm working with me has concluded were embedded with tracking software. At the same time, a Tapestry colleague received an anonymous e-mail furthering his claims, which had the identical tracking software embedded in it. It is hard to reach any conclusion other than that Cohan crossed the line in his pursuit of this story. I do not know if his agenda is financial, political, or in this age of social justice if he is driven by some other motivation.
I suspect that Cohan’s efforts encouraged the woman with whom I had the relationship to begin her outreach to news outlets which led to some of today’s reporting. I also expect that, upon the publication of this letter, Cohan will redouble his efforts to prove that I am a flawed person. I am the first person to acknowledge that I am human, for better and worse. I made a mistake in having a relationship with this woman and I dealt with that in my personal life at the time. But, more than a decade after my U.N. nomination process, I cannot allow these allegations to be weaponized against me. I cannot allow someone to treat me with the lack of decency that Cohan has brought to his crusade against me as I passionately worked alongside all of you to navigate this critical moment in history for Tapestry.
I reached the conclusion this past weekend that this distraction will not allow me to meet my responsibilities as CEO. I hope you know how deeply I care about you and the company. The last thing I want is to add to the uncertainty each of you are already facing due to Covid-19 and the economic downturn.
My time at Coach and then Tapestry has been life defining for me. Two months ago I wrote about how much I valued “the creativity that is sparked by deliberate and random intertwining of divergent people and ideas. Emboldened by the role that positive tension plays in driving growth. We understand that we are better together when different life experiences and perspectives allow us to develop ideas and products that none of us could have come up with on our own.”
I send you much love and thank you for the privilege of having worked with you,
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