Francesca’s CEO Steve Lawrence leaves abruptly

  • Push-out Score determined
  • After less than two and a half years in the position
  • Michael Prendergast taking over in the interim

(exechange) — Houston, Texas, January 31, 2019 — Steve Lawrence, chief executive of Francesca’s, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by Francesca’s Holding Corp. in a news release on Thursday, January 31, 2019, Steven Paul (Steve) Lawrence leaves his post as Chief Executive Officer at the specialty retailer after less than two and a half years in the role, effective February 1, 2019.

No company wants a CEO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months was 8.2 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 23 percent of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within three years.

Steve Lawrence’s duties will be taken over in the interim by Michael Prendergast, currently Senior Director in the Private Equity Performance Improvement Retail practice of Alvarez & Marsal, as interim Chief Executive Officer.

The fact that Steve Lawrence’s successor is brought in from outside suggests that the board may seek to stimulate change with fresh ideas and new initiatives.

In general, an outsider does not have the constraints of an insider when it comes to leading painful changes or making unpopular decisions.

“To pursue other opportunities”

Steve Lawrence’s sudden departure from the CEO post is explained as follows. Francesca’s said: “Mr. Prendergast will replace Steve Lawrence who has resigned from the Company to pursue other opportunities, effective February 1, 2019.”

The phrase “to pursue other opportunities” opens the door to speculation.

Precise information regarding Steve Lawrence’s future plans was not immediately available.

Share price decline

The announcement follows a decline in Francesca’s Holding Corp.’s share price of 95 percent since October 2016.

Chaired by Richard W. Kunes

Francesca’s Holding Corp. is chaired by Richard W. Kunes.

Rick Kunes served as the Chief Executive Officer and President of Francesca’s Holdings Corp. from May 17, 2016 to October 2016.

In the position of CEO since 2016

Steven P. Lawrence has served as a member of the Company’s Board of Directors and as the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer since October 2016.

Prior to joining the Company, he served as Chief Merchandising Officer at Stage Stores, Inc. (“Stage Stores”) since May 2012.

Prior to joining Stage Stores, Lawrence spent 11 years at J.C. Penney Company from September 2000 to March 2012, where his last position held was Executive Vice President and Co-Chief Merchant — Men’s, Kids and Home.

At the time of Steve Lawrence’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Francesca’s, Kunes had said: “After a thorough selection process, francesca’s is excited to announce Steve’s appointment as our President and Chief Executive Officer. Steve is a world-class retail executive and brings a wealth of knowledge gained over 26 years of retail experience. Not only is Steve a talented merchant, he is a strategic thinker and a thought leader who knows how to lead teams to successfully execute their strategic plans and to drive growth. We are confident Steve is the right person to capitalize on francesca’s solid growth platform and continue to enhance francesca’s position as a specialty retailer.”

At the time of his appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Francesca’s, Lawrence had said: “francesca’s unique retailing strategy and deep customer loyalty makes it an outstanding brand with tremendous growth potential. I look forward to working with the strong leadership team and employees at francesca’s to build upon the success and growth achieved so far. I am honored and humbled by the confidence placed in me by the Board to lead this amazing company.”

Unexpected

As a general rule, when a top leader announces to step down with no permanent successor in place, it is a sign that the move was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score determined

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange gauges the likelihood that a manager was pushed out or felt pressure to leave the position.

exechange reached out to Francesca’s and offered the company the opportunity to comment on the score.

Read the full story in the exechange report 5.2019 ($).