Karen Katz, a board member of Intermix since April, has been named interim chief executive officer of the omnichannel fashion retailer. The move is effective June 7.
The former president and CEO of the Neiman Marcus Group will take over duties held by Jyothi Rao, CEO, who has decided to step down.
Katz brings her experience in multibrand retail, e-commerce and large-scale transformation to Intermix, the 30-unit retailer that has a growing e-commerce business.
“We are thrilled to have Karen step into the role as interim CEO,” said Keoni Schwartz, cofounder and managing director of Altamont Capital Partners, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based private equity firm that owns Intermix.
“I want to thank Jyothi for her leadership at Intermix. Her strategic vision to fully integrate the stores with the e-commerce business positioned the brand to be a leading omnichannel fashion business for women,” Schwartz said.
“It’s been an honor to lead the talented team at Intermix for the past eight years,” Rao said. “I am proud of the brand we have built, one that curates the most exciting mix of established and emerging designers while using our platform to advocate for issues around female empowerment, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability I am confident that with Karen and Altamont Capital Partners paving the way, they will position the brand for continued success.”
Rao was unavailable for further comment about her plans.
In a telephone interview, Katz said her new role is definitely an interim position. “It will transition once Altamont Capital Partners along with myself do a search for a permanent replacement,” she said. Once Intermix hires a permanent CEO, Katz will transition into an executive chair role so she can work closely with the new CEO. Asked if they’re working with a headhunter, Katz said they haven’t gotten that far yet. “I’m sure that will come and we’ll figure that out in the weeks to come,” she said.
According to Katz, Rao made the decision to leave due to personal reasons.
“It was very much her decision, and ACP and myself fully respect and support her in that decision. I’m actually disappointed because she and I were just starting to develop a relationship as a board member and CEO. I’m sorry that we’re not going to working together, but I completely respect that she made that decision based on personal reasons,” Katz said.
Rao’s last day and Katz’s first day will be June 7.
“Over the past eight years, Joythi has crafted a meaningful vision for the brand and built a great team to lead Intermix through its next chapter,” Katz said. “Anyone who has had the pleasure of working closely with Jyothi has benefited from her experience, knowledge of the industry and passion for the customers. I am looking forward to partnering with Altamont Capital Partners and this committed Intermix team to continue the momentum and help Intermix deliver the best product and omnichannel experience to its current and future customers. In working with many private equity firms throughout my career, the team at ACP is completely aligned on our focus in delivering a great customer experience and growing shareholder value.”
Rao joined Intermix in 2014, taking over leadership from the company’s cofounders, Khajak Keledjian and his brother Haro. She had previously been with Gilt Groupe as executive vice president and general manager, and helped grow Gilt into a luxury e-commerce business that was once worth hundreds of millions of dollars before losing momentum. Before that, Rao spent two years at Calvin Klein and 12 years at The Gap, having graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. Rao was raised in India, West Africa and England and immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult.
A fellow graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, who also has her MBA from the University of Houston, Katz said she already spends a fair amount of time in New York because she has an apartment there. “In these COVID-19 times, people are working from the office very differently than they did pre-COVID-19. I will be spending time in the Intermix offices, but clearly Zoom and everything else is now part of our lives, which actually works well so I can split my time between Dallas and New York.”
Katz declined to discuss Intermix’s current business, saying she’d talk about it once she’s been in the role for awhile.
She said two of the reasons she joined the board were that she’s been a “distant admirer” of the brand for a long time and that she thinks there’s a lot of opportunity for the business. “APC bought Intermix from the Gap almost exactly a year ago. This year, they’ve been trying to carve out the company to become an independent company. Jyothi and the team have put together some growth strategies, and I’m looking forward to digging in and working closely with the leadership team and ACP on that,” Katz said.
In terms of what she’s looking for in terms of a leader, Katz said these days the CEOs of these type of companies have to be multidimensional, “and I’m sure we’ll look for somebody with many kinds of attributes to lead the company.”
Katz said she came to the company through others she knew. “They were intrigued with my background. Obviously I know a lot about private equity and the Altamont people are very supportive of what needs to happen, and I thought it would be a great combination. Obviously I met Jyothi and we really hit it off almost immediately.”
As for whether Altamont holds onto brands for the long term or looks to flip them, Katz said she couldn’t answer that. “They partner very closely with the companies they buy, and they’re very respectful through everything I’ve learned about them. I think that’s always a good sign for a private equity firm,” Katz said.
In May 2021, Altamont Capital Partners acquired the entire Intermix business, including all store leases, e-commerce and assets from Gap Inc. for an undisclosed sum. Intermix had accounted for less that 1 percent of Gap Inc.’s sales. Gap bought Intermix in January 2013 for $130 million in an effort to put a contemporary and hipper fashion halo over the company and expand Intermix. On both accounts, that didn’t happen, and some criticized the acquisition as a distraction for the Gap.
Despite Rao’s departure, Katz feels Intermix’s current leadership will stay in place. “I’ve spent a little bit of time with the leadership team. They all seem terrific and I’m very excited about working with them,” Katz said. She said she will remain a board member during the CEO search process.
Katz said she also couldn’t comment yet on whether there are plans to add more stores to its 30-unit fleet and quipped that she can barely say where the stores are.
Katz, who led Neiman Marcus Group through its digital transformation, spent eight years as CEO and 33 years with the company in a variety of positions. She retired in 2018. Katz serves on three public company boards: Humana Healthcare, Under Armour and The RealReal. She also spends time as a board member on privately held consumer company boards and acts as an adviser to a number of start-ups in the technology, service and product spaces. In addition, she is chair of the board of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
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