Misconduct allegations from over a decade ago tripped up former Tapestry Inc. CEO Jide Zeitlin, who resigned suddenly on Tuesday.
In a LinkedIn open letter to Tapestry on Tuesday, Zeitlin wrote that his abrupt resignation stems from a relationship 13 years ago that had resurfaced, and that drove the luxury firm’s board to hire a law firm to investigate, according to published reports. Zeitlin has been a Tapestry board member for 14 years, and was part of the Goldman Sachs team that helped the company, when it was then known as Coach Inc. under Lew Frankfort, complete its initial public offering.
According to Zeitlin’s post, the allegations state that he used a pseudonym when photographing strangers while pursuing an interest in photography. That led to a relationship with one woman, which Zeitlin didn’t deny. He noted that the relationship began and ended 13 years ago, and “had nothing to do with my role at Tapestry.”
“I did not use power, wealth, or position to further that relationship,” he added.
Zeitlin was named Tapestry’s interim CEO last September after the departure of then-CEO Victor Luis. And in March, he was named CEO and chairman and committed to a three-year term leading the company.
Zeitlin wrote that he has been working with legal counsel over the past month. “I reached the conclusion this past weekend that this distraction will not allow me to meet my responsibilities as CEO. I hope you know how deeply I care about you and the company. 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,” he said, adding, “My time at Coach and then Tapestry has been life defining for me.”
Under his tenure, the company was among the first to bring fashion firms together to sign an inclusivity pledge in the workplace. In the past few months, as one of the few African-American CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, he’s been a go-to corporate leader to speak about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Tapestry on Wednesday declined to provide additional comment on the matter. Others, however, left their comments on Zeitlin’s blog post.
Jim Lanzano, senior director global client services at Tapestry, described Zeitlin as “a special person, leader and a caring man of integrity and grace” who displayed the “rare trait” of putting “others first ahead of yourself.”
“You brought a sense of family, strength, and enthusiasm to all of us at Tapestry,” Lanzano wrote.
Coach store manager Monica Salazar thanked Zeitlin for sharing his story.
“It was an honor to be under your leadership,” she wrote. “Thank you for always making us feel taken care of.”
And Coach marketing vice president Bradley Breuer said working alongside Zeitlin was a “high point in my career.”
“Your belief in people and teams was truly inspirational; it left a lasting impression on everyone,” he added.