Forever 21 Just Named a Former H&M Exec as Its New CEO — What That Means for Its Future

Forever 21 is placing its bets on a new executive chief — one who previously served two decades at rival fast-fashion giant H&M.

Today, Authentic Brands Group announced the appointment of Daniel Kulle as Forever 21’s CEO. The position formerly belonged to Do Won Chang, who, along with wife Jin Sook Chang, founded the retailer in 1984. ABG is one of the teen mall staple’s new owners in a consortium of buyers that also includes Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.

“Forever 21 enjoys strong brand awareness and affinity, a clear consumer set and quick-to-market capabilities, allowing the brand to be nimble and leverage key trends and create strong value for its customers,” Kulle said in a statement. “The strong ownership structure, which combines ABG’s marketing prowess with Simon and Brookfield’s retail real estate expertise, creates a foundation for long-term growth.”

Kulle most recently held the role of strategic adviser to former H&M Group CEO Karl-Johan Persson, who in January became chairman of the board at the Swedish mega retailer.  Helena Helmersson replaced Persson as CEO. Kulle also served as president of H&M North America, helping expand the firm’s e-commerce and brick-and-mortar presence in the region, where sales grew from $1 billion to $4 billion annually.

In his new role, Kulle is tasked with using his digital expertise to enhance Forever 21’s content and social media strategies. He will also helm the retailer’s sustainability initiatives, a key tentpole as it enters its next chapter under new ownership.

“Daniel is a well-respected, progressive fashion executive, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the team,” ABG founder, chairman and CEO Jamie Salter said in a statement.

Simon chairman and CEO David Simon added, “Knowing Daniel personally for several years, I’ve seen his tenacious working style firsthand. His strategic vision and experience will build on Forever 21’s heritage and undoubtedly usher in a new era for the brand.”

Last week, Forever 21 was snapped up by ABG, Simon and Brookfield. As part of the acquisition, ABG and Simon each own 37.5% of the fast-fashion retailer, while Brookfield takes control of the remaining 25% of Forever 21’s intellectual property and operating businesses.

With changing preferences among its target shoppers, who are increasingly turning to e-commerce for fashion, Forever 21 in September joined a rapidly expanding list of retailers that have filed for Chapter 11 protection in a bid to restructure and rightsize their store fleets. At the time, it estimated that its assets were on par with liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion. Forever 21 had recorded $4.1 billion in annual sales at its peak.

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