Diane Sullivan, who has spent more than a decade dramatically evolving Caleres Inc., is taking on a new role at the company.
The chairman and CEO, one of the highest-ranking women in the industry, will become executive chairman on Jan. 15, 2023 as Jay Schmidt takes the reins as CEO. The move is the culmination of a planned succession process.
Sullivan, who most recently led the St. Louis-based firm to its best-ever Q1 performance, has been CEO since 2011. She joined the company, then Brown Shoe Co., in 2004 as president and was quickly elevated to COO a few years later. The executive, who has nabbed FN’s Person of the Year award multiple times, also has been a champion for board gender quality, achieving parity at Caleres.
Schmidt, who came on board in 2009, was named president in 2020. At that time, he assumed responsibility for all of the consumer and brand strategy across its roster of shoe labels, which includes Famous Footwear, Naturalizer, Sam Edelman, Vionic and Dr. Scholl’s.
“Diane transformed Caleres from a company that sells shoes to one that builds brands and connects with consumers while at the same time markedly changing the financial performance of the company,” said Ward Klein, lead independent director of Caleres in a statement. “She skillfully evolved the company’s portfolio – leading the acquisition and incubation of numerous brands including Sam Edelman, Allen Edmonds and Vionic, all three of which are now lead assets for the company. Notably, the company’s earnings per share climbed steadily increasing six-fold over Diane’s tenure as CEO.”
For her part, Sullivan said she is looking forward to working with the board in a new role, and is “highly confident” that Schmidt is the ideal person to succeed her. “He is a consummate merchant and has been instrumental in the evolution and success of the company’s portfolio of brands,” Sullivan said. “He has built an impressive track record of operational and financial accomplishments during his tenure. His deep understanding of our industry, tremendous knowledge of our company and his ability to translate ambition into action will be invaluable in accelerating improving results.”
Schmidt said he was ready to build on the strong foundation Sullivan established. “I feel fortunate to have had the privilege to collaborate with Diane as we charted a strategic course for ongoing success. I look forward to working with the entire Caleres team as we leverage our powerful portfolio of brands and our deep knowledge of the consumer to drive further progress across our key strategic initiatives and deliver exceptional value for all our stakeholders.”