Sharen Jester Turney, who has run Victoria’s Secret for the past decade, is stepping down from the L Brands Inc. division, leaving Chief Executive Officer Les Wexner directly in charge of his company’s biggest business. Turney, who became CEO of the lingerie chain in 2006, will remain an adviser to the division while Wexner assumes leadership, L Brands said in a statement Friday. The 59-year-old said she is leaving the Columbus, Ohio-based company “to prioritize my family and my personal life and consider what’s next for me professionally.”
The shake-up raises questions for L Brands, which gets almost two-thirds of its revenue from Victoria’s Secret. As head of the company’s largest division, Turney was seen as a possible successor to Wexner, a billionaire who turns 79 this year. L Brands’ shares tumbled as much as 5.5 percent to $79.35 after the announcement.
“We have strong confidence in the strength of the brand and our growth opportunities, and I look forward to taking on a more active role and working with the talented leadership team at Victoria’s Secret,” Wexner said in the statement.
Though Turney has increased Victoria’s Secret sales more than 70 percent since 2006, its growth has been uneven recently. In January, comparable sales at the brand declined 4 percent from the same time a year earlier. Analysts had predicted a 3 percent increase, according to Consensus Metrix. The company said the decline resulted from moving a popular sale into December.
Even with Turney out, the depth of talent at L Brands remains “significant,” Richard Jaffe, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp., said in a note to clients. The question is whether Wexner has enough time for the new duties, he said.
“While we believe Mr. Wexner’s more active role in the VS brand is a positive for Victoria’s Secret, given his deep retail knowledge, we question if his talents will be stretched too thin,” Jaffe said.