Jide Zeitlin, the 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 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.
Former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mrs. Ifueko M. Omoigui Okauru, acknowledged her support for Jide Zeitlin saying, “you will go through this” on the LinkedIn statement.
Other commenters highlighted the personal vendetta by William Cohan on Jide Zeitlin and showed support for the Nigerian born CEO.
“If what he says is accurate, he needs to stay and fight. Then counter-sue. To resign makes no sense” says Trish Duff, Senior Executive Recruiter at Executive Hiring firm Amotec.
“This news has truly saddened me and I can’t help but think that this is largely due to the stand you’ve publicly taken in the world of diversity and inclusion, specifically siding with the Black Lives Matter movement. With that said, seeing that our leadership is once again whitewashed, it makes it very hard to believe that the work you started will be continued.” Former Colleague and Senior Manager at Coach, Karina Stephens .
Most of the reactions are comments in an article written by Jide Zeitlin explaining his side of he scandal.
Another commenter Martha Littlejohn applauded his decision to come forward to express his own opinion. “I can only applaud all of your actions dealing with your current challenges. To me, one of the most troubling signs of the times is the inability of so many to even consider time and context before slandering and trying to destroy folks. At the end of the day, we are all only human. And prominent folks (like Alexander Hamilton) have made mistakes throughout our history. We seem to have lost the ability to be dispassionate and fact based about our disagreements.”
The news of his resignation came as a shock to many as Jide Zeitlin is one of just 4 Black executives serving as CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. Jide Zeitlin highlighted issues stemming from a past relationship he had with a woman and not with any criminal wrongdoing during his time at Tapestry.
Mr Zeitlin revealed this in a LinkedIn statement after allegations of an “inappropriate relationship with a woman” during a photography pursuit were made while he was going through a congressional process after he was nominated for Ambassador to the United Nations by former US President Obama, 11 years ago.
He revealed that he had interests in Photography due to the nature of his father’s job as a Foreign Correspondent. Jide Zeitlin also said that he did not “use power, wealth, or position to further that relationship”, and that the relationship started and finished 13 years, adding that his resignation as CEO “had nothing to do with my role at Tapestry”.
The allegations began after a journalist William Cohan approached him to write a profile for “Airmail an online periodical edited by Graydon Carter”. He said the writer wanted to run a profile on Jide’s life from his origins in Nigeria to his stint at Wall Street with Goldman Sachs and later on to Tapestry.
“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,” he said.
“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. “
“Cohan’s inordinate focus on this dated matter was and remains odd and unsettling”.
He said that he had been working with advisors and legal counsel the past month to understand the reasons behind the allegations and that he has been advised that Cohan’s motivations “is something other than simply a journalist in pursuit of truth”. Cohan has refused to dialogue with his spokeswoman and sent e-mails to Jide’s close friends which an investigation has revealed that the emails were embedded with tracking software. His coworkers at tapestry also received similar emails embedded with the same tracking software.
“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,” Jide said.
He revealed that he suspects Cohan may have approached the woman he had a past relationship with, to commence an outreach to other news outlets and also expects Cohan to redouble efforts to prove he has a flawed character.
He said, he came to the realization that the distraction of the character assault and investigations would distract him from his job as CEO, and that he deeply cares about the company, However, “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”.
William Cohan says in his own article that Jide Zeitlin’s contract with Tapestry stipulates that he has never been subject of any sexual misconduct and any acts or omission would have a negative effect on the Tapestry brand which would be a cause for his termination. Citing Jide’s resignation when Tapestry’s lawyers got involved.
Born in Nigeria to a single mother, Jide Zeitlin was adopted by an American family at the age of 5, who he says “believed they could help me access a decent education and of course, a whole different life”. He grew up in Nigeria and the Philippines before settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his family.
He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from Amherst College in Economics and English before moving to the Harvard Business School for his MBA. He later worked in Wall Street for Goldman Sachs, rising to a partnership role and earned over $100 million when the firm went public.
He joined Tapestry 14 years ago becoming Chairman of the board in 2014 and CEO in 2019, where he says he has been implementing a “multi-year growth agenda for Tapestry’s global house of brands, Coach, Kate Spade New York and Stuart Weitzman”.
He has also served on the board of Nigeria’s Sovereign Investment Authority (NSITF) since 2012 as Chairman.
Tapestry announced revenues of $6 billion in 2019, with 71% of revenues from the Coach brand at $4.3 billion.
“ Jide, it has been an honor and a privilege working under your leadership. Thank you for telling your story and not allowing the outside narrative to persist. I applaud your honesty and humility. Furthermore, I am grateful for the time you spent curing our fears of the current state of our world and shaping our new Tapestry ideals and strategies,” says Carmen Williams, another ex-colleague and General Manager at Coach.