Incoming Class

The new year will see a changing of the guard in the chief executive’s office of several big retailers. Here are four to watch:

The torch has been passed at Costco Wholesale Corp., with president and COO Craig Jelinek stepping into the very big shoes of the company’s longtime chief executive and co-founder Jim Sinegal (effective January 1, 2012).

Jelinek, 59, started at Costco in 1984 as a store manager and worked his way up, serving in major roles throughout Costco's business operations and merchandising activities. In succeeding Sinegal, he replaces one of retailing’s most admired, innovative and successful executives. Most industry analysts expect a smooth transition. Jelinek and Sinegal have worked closely together and, insiders say, share similar values when it comes to running the business.

Although Sinegal, 76, has retired from the top spot, he will serve as an adviser through January 2013 and assist Jelinek during the transition. He also will seek re-election to Costco’s board in January.

American Eagle Outfitters
Levi Strauss & Co. veteran Robert Hanson tries on a new role when he becomes CEO of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. on Jan. 30. He replaces Jim O’Donnell, who is retiring after leading the teen apparel chain since 2002.

Hanson, 48, spent 23 years at Levi’s, most recently as global president of the Levi’s brand. Prior to that, he held a variety of leadership roles in the company’s merchandising, product development, multi-channel, marketing and creative teams.

Hanson’s appointment marked the end of a nearly nine-month search. In making the announcement, American Eagle Outfitters chairman noted that the incoming CEO. "After an extensive search, we believe Robert is the ideal person to build on AEO's strengths, maximize our portfolio of brands across North America and propel our brands into new markets across the world,” said Jay Schottenstein, chairman, American Eagle Outfitters.

Giant Eagle
Although Giant Eagle is starting the new year with new leadership for the first time in over 30 years, it is keeping things in the family. The Pittsburgh-based food and fuel retailer tapped Laura Shapira Karet, 42, to succeed her father, David Shapira, as CEO. Shapira has worked for the privately-held, family-owned company for 41 of its 80 year-history, and served as CEO since 1980.

Karet, whose appointment is effective Jan.9, joined Giant Eagle in 2000 as VP marketing.  She most recently served as senior  executive VP and chief strategy officer, responsible for the development and management of the chain’s long-term business plan and setting direction for its corporate priorities and innovations.

Prior to Giant Eagle, Karet held marketing executive positions at Sara Lee, and brand management roles at Proctor & Gamble.

Crate and Barrel
Home-furnishings retailer Crate and Barrel is in for a change of leadership this spring when Sascha Bopp, who currently serves as chief operating officer, assumes the role of CEO.

Bopp, 42, will succeed longtime Crate and Barrel veteran Barbara Turf, who joined the Northbrook, Ill.-based company as a part-time salesperson in 1968, and took over merchandising in 1975. She worked closely with Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal, and was appointed CEO when he retired in 2008.

Prior to joining Crate and Barrel in 2009, Bopp was managing director and chief financial officer of Primondo GmbH, a multichannel retailer in Germany, and also served as also served as CEO of Primondo's Specialty Group division. (Crate & Barrel is owned by Otto Group, a privately held German retailer.)

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