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J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler to Retire From Apple's Board

The retail guru who helped launch the first Apple store will retire from the Apple board in March.

J. Crew

Millard “Mickey” Drexler, the retail guru whose guidance helped launch the first Apple store, will retire from Apple’s board of directors at the end of his term in March.

The company disclosed the impending departure of its longest-tenured current board member in documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Apple said the board has yet to nominate anyone to fill the vacancy.

Drexler made his mark in retail in the late 1990s by turning Gap from a sleepy retail chain into a household name.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs invited the Bronx-born Drexler to join the Apple board in 1999, seeing in the retailer a kindred spirit when it came to matters of image and design. Like Jobs, Drexler insisted on total control — Gap stores sold only Gap products, which were available almost exclusively through these retail stores.

“I left the department store business because I couldn’t stand not controlling my own product, from how it’s manufactured to how it’s sold,” Drexler told Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. “Steve is just that way, which is why I think he recruited me.”

Drexler gave Jobs some advice that would influence the look of the Apple store, according to an anecdote recounted in the Isaacson book. The retailer urged Jobs to build a secret prototype store near the company’s Cupertino campus, furnish it and hang around in the space until he was comfortable with its ultimate design.

“Among his many contributions, Mickey was a key advisor on the launch of Apple’s retail stores at a time when few believed Apple would succeed and no one could have imagined the successes to come,” Apple said in a statement acknowledging his 15 years of service. “We thank him for all of his contributions.”

The 70-year-old Drexler joined J. Crew as its chief executive in 2003, and took the company private in a 2010 leveraged buyout. He has been struggling to revive the chain’s cachet.

Another Jobs confidant, Bill Campbell, left the Apple board in 2014 after serving 17 years, and was succeeded by Sue Wagner, co-founder of BlackRock, an investment firm.

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