EXCLUSIVE: Jeff Tweedy Leaving Sean John, GBG

It’s the end of an era at Sean John.

Jeffrey Tweedy, who has spent the better part of two decades at the helm of the brand founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs in 1998, is officially stepping down as president of Sean John and executive vice president of the men’s division of Global Brands Group, which bought a majority stake in the brand in 2016.

Tweedy, who was the architect for the deal to bring the brand to GBG, will continue to serve as an adviser for the organization.

“It’s something I was thinking about for a while,” Tweedy told WWD Tuesday. After 21 years with the brand, he said he wanted to “change it up a little,” and has been contemplating “what else I want to do.”

Although he said he has “no idea what my next steps are,” Tweedy said he is seeking something where he can “continue to build brands,” especially those centered in the direct-to-consumer space. He said he’s currently talking to several people in the industry to explore his options. “I’m going to take my time and find the right opportunity for me,” he said.

“It has been an honor to work alongside everyone in the men’s division and the many talented executives at GBG,” Tweedy added. “It is never an easy decision to leave because of my long history building Sean John and to have worked alongside of Sean Combs in the devolvement and success of the brand. I am honored that the team at GBG has asked me to stay on in this newly created consulting role to support diversity and equity here. In addition to this important work, I am looking forward to the new challenges building brands I believe in as well as continuing the work I passionately do with several charitable organizations. It is times like these that my contributions to these organizations are even more important.”

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Rick Darling, chief executive officer of GBG, said: “We appreciate the contribution that Jeff has made to Sean John over the years and look forward to his continued support in an advisory role as we rebirth the brand to build a strong community with social conscience at its forefront.”

Darling declined to provide specifics on who would take over the top post at Sean John or how the brand is currently performing. When GBG purchased its stake in Sean John and its sister label, Enyce, for an undisclosed amount four-plus years ago, the brand had annual retail sales of around $450 million and a goal to grow into a $1 billion international business through a licensed model. However, today the brand in the U.S. is primarily sold at Macy’s and on its own website and its international presence is unknown.

Tweedy’s departure comes on the heels of some major fireworks with the Sean John brand that exploded last month when Combs filed two lawsuits against GBG Sean John U.S. in New York federal court. Combs retains an ownership stake in the brand, believed to be around 20 percent.

The first suit, filed Feb. 4 in the Southern District of New York federal court, is seeking $25 million for “false endorsement, misappropriation of likeness and violating his publicity rights,” over the launch last fall of a women’s collection with U.K. fast-fashion retailer Missguided Unlimited. In the lawsuit, Combs said the promotion of the collection “misstates [his] connection to the GBG Collection,” and said the use of his image and a quote attributed to him were not provided or approved.

The second lawsuit filed Feb. 10, was brought by Combs’ nonprofit Citizen Change over the GBG entities’ use of the phrase “Vote or Die,” the trademark owned by Citizen Change and another company run by Combs called CE Trademark, according to the complaint. The suit alleges that GBG had applied to register the mark after the USPTO canceled the registration originally obtained by Citizen Change. However, that cancellation did not terminate the rights to the Vote or Die trademark, the suit said.

GBG filed responses in both cases on March 29, denying the allegations and had no further comment on Tuesday.

Similarly, Combs declined to comment on Tweedy’s departure on Tuesday.

Tweedy was Sean John’s first employee when he joined as executive vice president. With the exception of a two-year stint from 2005 to 2007 when he left to join G-III as president of its sportswear division, Tweedy has been at the head of the brand the entire time.

He started his career as a stock boy for a tailor in Washington, D.C., and joined Ralph Lauren Womenswear in 1991 as East Coast sales manager. He also worked for Spike Lee’s 40 Acre Products as well as Karl Kani before joining Sean John. Most recently, Tweedy said he has joined the board of Academy Sports and Outdoors, a sporting goods chain headquartered in Texas currently run by retail veteran Ken Hicks as chief executive officer.

Asked if he might consider joining Combs Enterprises in another role, Tweedy said that is unlikely since most of its holdings are in spirits and entertainment rather than fashion. Established in 2013, Combs Enterprises includes Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, Combs Wine & Spirits, AQUAhydrate, The Blue Flame Agency, Revolt Films and Revolt Media & TV.

Tweedy’s philanthropic interests include Harlem Figure Skate, the 5000 Role Models Excellence Project, and an adviser to both Black Fashion World Foundation and Black Retail Action Group. He also serves as board member to the Piney Wood School in Mississippi.

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