Michael Appel, a highly regarded retail executive, has been affiliated with Cedar Croft Consulting since 2004. He has had direct supervisory responsibility for every functional area within a retail operation and has extensive international sourcing and operating experience. Mr. Appel has expertise in women’s apparel, accessories, menswear and childrenswear and all categories of home furnishings across department store, specialty store, luxury, off-price and direct response channels of distribution. He has been retained by Goldman Sachs and other Private Equity/Lender Groups as Interim CEO and CRO for several well-known retailers and specialty consumer product companies (Baccarat, Wilkes Bashford, Laura Ashley, MacKenzie Childs, Caswell Massey). In each assignment, he made significant improvements in operating profitability and cash flow in short periods of time.
After receiving an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, Mr. Appel joined Bloomingdale’s where he spent 10 years in merchandising both in home furnishings and apparel, rising to Divisional Merchandise Manager of Childrenswear. In 1983, he was recruited to Fortunoff as Vice President of Merchandising, where in just over four years, he increased comparable store sales by over 60% and increased gross margin over 3%. In 1987, he was recruited to Hoffritz for Cutlery, an 80 store national specialty chain, where after turning around company operations, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer.
In 1991, Mr. Appel established Appel Associates, an advisory firm that provides performance improvement and turnaround consulting services to retail and consumer goods companies. He has been retained by Boards of Directors as Interim CEO, financial advisor and CRO to turnaround and stabilize a wide variety of retail and consumer goods companies. In 2001, He served as Financial Advisor to the Creditor’s Committee of Kasper ASL, a leading manufacturer of women’s apparel under the Kasper and Anne Klein brands. After conducting a comprehensive strategic and operating review, a turnaround plan was developed and successfully implemented, and in December 2003 the Jones Group completed the acquisition of Kasper for an aggregate transaction value of $270 million. For his work on Kasper, the Turnaround Management Association awarded Mr. Appel its Large Company Turnaround of the Year Award.
At HCI Direct, he was retained as CRO to oversee the company’s prepackaged Chapter 11 proceedings and successful implementation of its restructuring plan. With the departure of the CEO, he was named Interim CEO, successfully managing the business, achieving plan, introducing a new product line and recruiting a new CEO.
In 2009, as Interim CEO, Mr. Appel led the successful stabilization and sale of the iconic San Francisco luxury apparel retailer Wilkes Bashford to the Mitchell Family. Mr. Appel worked on the General Growth Partners’ restructuring in 2010, and in 2011 served as Interim CEO of Baccarat Crystal, significantly increasing sales in its retail, wholesale and corporate sales divisions.
In addition to his turnaround management and performance improvement activities, Mr. Appel has provided strategic advisory, due diligence and expert witness consulting services to retailers, financial institutions, law firms and consumer product companies. Representative clients include Ford Motor Company, where he was retained to assist a management task force in formulating store retail strategies aimed at leveraging Ford and its nameplate brands outside the dealer network,; Barney’s New York, where he was retained by the bondholders and future owners of to review management’s strategic plan and provide due diligence prior to the Company exiting Chapter 11; and Castle Harlan, where Mr. Appel was retained to provide due diligence on the LBO of Sheriden Australia.
Mr. Appel graduated from Brandeis University (Phi Beta Kappa) and from the Harvard Business School (MBA with Distinction). He has served on many corporate and non-profit Boards including Mattress Discounters, Charming Shoppes (where he was Chairman of the Compensation Committee), The Laboratory Institute of Merchandising Fashion Education Foundation, and served as Chairman of the Board of Loehmann’s. He currently serves on the Board of master Cutlery, is a member of the Advisory Board of FIT’s Global Fashion Management MBA program and is a member of The Fashion Group. He serves on the National Board of the Turnaround Management Association, where he served as Chairman of the TMA Awards Committee. He is a past member of the Young President’s Organization.