When Alain Caparros gave up his CEO role at Rewe, Germany’s second-largest food retailer, in March, he said he was taking early retirement. He’d brought considerable success to his supermarket chain, but said the time was right to depart for a slower pace of life in the south of France. The opening of a gallery was mentioned.
Such talk didn’t last long. On Wednesday, it was announced that the flamboyant retailer was taking over as the head of C&A Europe, the stuttering clothing chain. The news surprised many industry observers, as Mr. Caparros has very little experience in the fashion business.
His appointment may also come as a shock to C&A. The clothing chain, jointly headquartered in Belgium and Germany, has only rarely had a boss not related to the Dutch owners, the secretive Brenninkmeijer family. Mr. Caparros’s predecessor, for example, was Philippe Brenninkmeijer, and when he left in May, Edward Brenninkmeijer took over temporarily.
Charming but moody, Mr. Caparros will take some getting used to. Family companies tend to rely on harmony between relatives to make things run smoothly, whereas Mr. Caparros is a fighter. He took over at Rewe after launching a boardroom coup, and was a permanent drag on efforts by Edeka, Rewe’s arch-rival, to take over the smaller supermarket chain Kaiser’s Tengelmann. Having complained to the cartel office, he ended up getting a share of the spoils, labeling the battle “a testosterone war of chieftains.”