Gap poaches Mattel executive behind Barbie revival as next CEO

July 27, 2023

Gap is betting that an executive who helped make over Barbie can revive the faded apparel giant, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Richard Dickson, the president and chief operating officer at toymaker, Mattel, is taking over as Gap’s next chief executive, ending a yearlong search for a new leader.

Mattel told staff about Dickson’s departure early on Wednesday, July 26, as many were still celebrating the company’s box office success with the “Barbie” movie.

The 55-year-old Dickson has spent much of his career at Mattel, where he is best known for breathing new life into the Barbie franchise. Dickson also has apparel experience, having started his career at Bloomingdale’s and later spent several years at the owner of Nine West, before returning to Mattel.

Gap in recent years has churned through leaders and shifted strategies. The owner of Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta has been slashing jobs, closing some stores, and trying to speed up its design efforts. It has lost ground to global chains such as Zara and online entrants such as Shein, which rapidly churn out the latest fashions and reach customers on social media.

In the past, Gap has appointed CEOs with strong operating skills. What it determined it needs is a visionary who can unleash the power of its brands and make them relevant again. “Richard knows how to bring brands to life,” said Bob Martin, Gap’s chairman and interim CEO. 

That’s not to downplay the operational complexities of running a large retail business with more than 2,600 stores and manufacturing hubs around the world.

Martin has made headway streamlining the management structure and speeding decision making. Dickson will have to continue that work. “We were able to clear a path for him, but he still has to deliver on what it takes to run a portfolio of brands,” Martin said.

Dickson will step down from his Mattel post on August 3 and start his new role at Gap on August 22, according to the companies. He received $5.6 million in compensation at Mattel last year, according to securities filings.

Research contact: @WSJ