Levi Strauss CEO Says His 'Biggest Regret' Is Not Firing More People Sooner: 'I Held On to Somebody Longer Than I Should Have' Charles Bergh will step down as CEO of Levi Strauss next year.

By Emily Rella

Key Takeaways

  • Levi Strauss CEO Charles Bergh took over the company in September 2011.
  • Bergh spoke with CNBC about his strategy then to turn the company around.
  • He said that his "biggest regret" was not firing certain people sooner.

In the wake of mass layoffs and a volatile job market, many CEOs say making cuts and restructuring decisions can be tough.

But for Levi Strauss CEO Charles Bergh, there's nothing tough about it.

In a new interview with CNBC, Bergh claims that he fired more than half of the top executives at the company when he took over in September 2011.

"The easiest way to change the culture is to change the people. I had 11 direct reports, and in the first 18 months, nine of them were gone," Bergh told CNBC in an interview.

Profile shoot of Charles V Bergh, President & Chief Executive Officer of Levi Strauss & Co. (Getty Images)

When Bergh took over as CEO, the company was trying to resonate with younger buyers.

"The company's performance had been really erratic for more than 10 years," he said. "One year the revenues would go up, but the profits would go down. The next year, they would fix the profits, but the revenues went down."

But as Bergh implemented changes to the company's business model, he told CNBC that his biggest regret was that he didn't let enough people go soon enough.

"My biggest regret is that we didn't lean into some of these great leaders, and we lost some because I held on to somebody longer than I should have," he said bluntly.

Bergh is set to step down as CEO next year. He will be succeeded by former Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass.

Related: Levi's AI Models, Meant to Up Diversity, Raise Serious Questions

Levi Strauss is coming off a rougher-than-expected Q2 2023 after reporting a high drop off in wholesale revenue and soft sales in its U.S. market.

Overall sales were $1.34 billion, a 9% decrease from the $1.47 billion in sales the company saw at the same time last year.

Levi Strauss was down just over 18.6% in a one-year period as of Wednesday afternoon.

Related: Rare Vintage Levi's Sell for More Than $87,000 at Auction

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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