CEO at AEO to go

PITTSBURGH – Shortly after reporting a 16% increase in continuing operations for its fourth quarter ended Jan. 29, American Eagle Outfitters, announced that its CEO, James O’Donnell, has informed the board of directors of his intention to retire, and the company has initiated a succession process to be jointly led by O’Donnell and the board. American Eagle said O’Donnell will continue with the company as CEO until a successor is named and through an orderly transition period.

O’Donnell, 70, who joined the company as COO in 2000, became Co-CEO in 2002 and then CEO in 2003, is ending his time at American Eagle Outfitters on a good note. The company’s fourth-quarter earnings per diluted share were 44 cents compared with 38 cents for the same period last year. However, a total fourth-quarter sales decrease of 4% to $916 million and a comparable-stores sales decrease of 7% dampers the mood. 

Still, American Eagle appears pleased with O’Donnell’s performance over the years.

Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the board, said, “We are extremely grateful for Jim’s many contributions to our company, including achieving a high level of operating and financial performance from which we can continue to build, assembling a world-class management team, and successfully expanding our retail footprint including entry into international markets to leverage the global reach of the American Eagle brand. Jim has led the growth and development of our company for much of the last ten years and will leave behind an organization that is well positioned for the future.”

And O’Donnell did express confidence about the company’s future.

“As we look to 2011, we are moving forward with growth initiatives across our brands. Although we face external headwinds, including rising product costs, we expect to make further progress in positioning American Eagle Outfitters for long-term profitable growth.”

For the fiscal first quarter of 2011, American Eagle said it expects earnings to be in the range of 13 cents to 17 cents per diluted share, based on comparable-store sales of negative 3% to flat. This compares to earnings from continuing operations of 17 cents per diluted share last year.

For fiscal 2011, management expects results to be similar to last year’s adjusted earnings from continuing operations of $1.02 per diluted share. The company is targeting comparable-store sales growth in the low single-digits.