published : 2023-09-28

Levi Strauss CEO Regrets Not Taking Swift Action on Staffing Issues

Charles Bergh admits to holding on to underperforming employees in recent interview

A photo of Charles Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, during an interview with CNBC, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Levi Strauss & Co's CEO Charles Bergh revealed some of his regrets regarding staffing decisions.

Bergh admitted that one of his biggest regrets was not letting go of underperforming employees quickly enough.

He stated, 'This is a corny saying, and it gets said a lot, but probably not exiting people soon enough when I knew there was something not right, not making the right people moves fast enough, not moving really talented people ahead fast enough.'

According to Bergh, he also acknowledged that some individuals left the company because he held on to them longer than he should have.

The CEO emphasized the importance of having the right people in an organization, saying, 'At the end of the day, it’s a people game.'

An image of Levi Strauss & Co headquarters in California, reflecting the company's workforce of 18,000 employees, captured with a Nikon D850.

Levi Strauss & Co, with its headquarters in California, had a workforce of 18,000 employees as of late November, as reported in their latest annual report.

Under Bergh's leadership as CEO since 2011, the company has experienced significant growth, seeing notable increases in revenue in 2017 and 2018.

Bergh revealed that upon joining Levi Strauss & Co, he made significant changes by letting go of nine out of his 11 direct reports within the first 1.5 years to drive strategic transformation.

The market capitalization of Levi Strauss & Co currently stands at around $5.16 billion, having faced a decline of over 18.5% in the past 12 months.

Bergh's 12-year tenure as CEO is expected to come to an end in the future, with Michelle Gass, former Kohl's CEO and current President of Levi Strauss & Co, set to take over the top position within the next 18 months.

A snapshot of Michelle Gass, former Kohl's CEO and incoming CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, ready to lead the company to new heights, photographed using a Sony Alpha A7 III.

The specific timing of Gass's appointment as CEO is yet to be determined and will be a decision made by the board.

However, Bergh expressed optimism about the transition, stating, 'What I will say is, the transition has gone incredibly well. I'm very optimistic that this is going to be a very smooth transition.'

Levi Strauss & Co has seen positive results under Bergh's leadership, and their third-quarter results are set to be released next week.

In the first two quarters of the year, the company generated nearly $3.03 billion in net revenues, slightly lower than the $3.06 billion generated in the same period last year.