Jeff Rudes Leaves J Brand for Next Venture

An executive shuffle continues at J Brand with the blue jeans company’s co-founder, Jeff Rudes, leaving as the chief executive.

An announcement was made on May 27 that Rudes, who co-founded the company in 2004, was stepping down after 80.1 percent of J Brand was sold in 2012 to Fast Retailing, the Japanese venture that is the parent of retailer Uniqlo.

“We are grateful for Jeff’s pioneering vision and spirit. He has assembled a stellar team of executives who I am confident will successfully advance the mission of making J Brand a global leader in premium denim,” noted Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and chief executive of Fast Retailing.

Sources close to the company said Rudes hadn't been at the J Brand headquarters for the past two weeks. "I am ready to move on and create what is next," Rudes said, a day after his departure was announced. When news broke, he was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle up in bucolic Ojai, Calif. "It was a great partnership with Fast Retailing. But I have a project that was planned over five years ago. It will be my last 'hurrah' in the industry."

Rudes said his new concept, which is not denim-related, will debut at the end of the year. "It is all being made in Italy and is a luxury product," he said.

The co-founder of the Los Angeles premium denim brand also confirmed that he had sold his remaining financial interest in the company and is making a clean break. "I have made my mark in the denim business," he noted.

Stepping in temporarily as the acting chief executive will be Andrew Rosen, chief executive of Theory and Helmut Lang, brands also owned by Fast Retailing. Fast Retailing has started its executive search.

At the beginning of March, Lynne Koplin, an industry veteran in the Los Angeles swimwear and denim business, was named president of J Brand. Weeks later, Thimio Sotos, the denim company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer since 2010, left.

Industry experts familiar with J Brand said that many of the company’s financial operations are moving to New York, where Fast Retailing has its U.S. headquarters.

Rudes started the company in 2004 with Susie Crippen, who was on the creative side. In 2010, they sold 52 percent of the company to Star Avenue Capital, which two years later sold a majority share to Fast Retailing for about $290 million