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San Francisco-based Gap Inc. taps Mattel executive as next president and CEO

Richard Dickson, president and chief operating officer of Mattel Inc., stands for a photo on Mattel’s showroom floor at Toy Fair, in New York, Feb. 18, 2017. | Source: Julie Jacobson/AP Photo

Gap has tapped a top Mattel executive who re-energized Barbie and Hot Wheels to be its next president and CEO.

The San Francisco-based chain, which operates stores under its namesake as well as Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, said Wednesday that Richard Dickson will join Gap Inc. on Aug. 22 from his most recent role as president and chief operating officer of toy giant Mattel. In a separate announcement, Mattel, based in El Segundo, California, said that Dickson will depart Aug. 3.

Gap’s CEO spot had been vacant since Sonia Syngal left last July. Dickson has been a board member of Gap since November.

READ MORE: The Gap, One of San Francisco’s Most Iconic Businesses, Has Come Undone

The move comes as Gap, once an iconic purveyor of khakis and other casual wear in its heyday in the 1990s, has been struggling with a sales slump for years despite numerous initiatives to fix the business through a revolving list of executives. The pandemic and surging supply chain costs exacerbated financial conditions at The Gap, in addition to other disruptions. In April, Gap announced it was laying off 1,800 corporate workers, roughly three times the number of headquarters jobs it cut last fall, as the struggling chain cuts costs in a bid to become more nimble.

Gap’s Chairman Bobbie Martin, who served as interim CEO, noted that Dickson is “destined for this role at this moment” after a deliberate and thoughtful search.

“His experience as a proven transformational brand builder and belief in the power of inclusivity, make him a perfect fit for Gap Inc., ” he said in a statement.

Martin will remain chairman of the board to ensure a smooth transition, Gap said.

Under Dickson’s leadership, Mattel developed and launched a brand-building approach that has been critical in growing Mattel’s power brands, particularly with the Barbie franchise. Barbie dolls have regained popularity as the company diversified the lineup with more skin tones and versions with prosthetic legs, wheelchairs and hearing aids.

Prior to Mattel, Dickson was president and CEO of branded businesses for The Jones Group, where he led global design and development, including marketing and merchandising, wholesale, retail, and e-commerce, and acquired and developed new brands. Dickson also co-founded, the first online retailer dedicated to high-end cosmetics, and served as an executive at Bloomingdale’s.

Gap’s shares rose more than 6%, or 60 cents, to $9.81, while Mattel’s shares fell close to 1%, or 15 cents, to $21.02 in morning trading.