August 17, 2012

Restoration Hardware Chief Steps Down

Apparently, Gary Friedman, the chair, and co-executive of Restoration Hardware, has stepped down from his post due to an “inappropriate relationship” with a 26-year old staffer at RH.image

He’s been the driving force behind much of RH’s recent look – the airplane wing desks, the skeleton chairs, the burlap upholstery. As the New York Times puts it, “high-priced faux antique furniture”. imageThis resignation comes as RH prepares for an initial public stock offering. Mr. Friedman is the majority stockholder. While he’s out of the executive office, his name and face will appear in the store’s fall catalogue – those early print deadlines can really be a problem.

For more about this, click here.

64 comments:

  1. Clearly he has no character or taste. Good riddance!

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    1. We had a long discussion about this at dinner, and I think it's the character issue that's the killer.

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  2. Call me jaded but it's my feeling that nothing that happens in the corporate world can be taken at face value. I think it's some kind of marketing spin after a some demographic study showed that such a lecherous relationship might pique the interest of monied people attracted to ugly furniture.

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  3. Uff da! When I saw your headline, I have to admit my first thought was that he was out BECAUSE of what he's done with RH (airplane wreckage and fake "deconstructed" antiques). Although before his makeover RH had the problem of looking too much like Pottery Barn but at a higher price point. They needed to find a more unique look for the brand, and I fully expected them to change out most of the line every season with another trendy fad, because obviously Rivets and Wreckage are not going to be long-term design staples. It will be interesting to see who comes in next, and what he or she will do with the brand.

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    1. That was my first thought, too. Who buys that stuff?

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  4. Apparently there must still be some truth to the old say, "never mix business with pleasure." Certainly seems to have given him at least a bit of notoriety to stoke the publicity fire.

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    1. Paid her $70k, even with no work experience. Then gave her a $10k raise a few weeks later.

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  5. I am not sure why this matters if it is consensual. At my company, the COO started dating a fellow employee and they simply made sure she was not under his direct reporting structure. It can be a little complex if it is the CEO I guess. On a side note, I notice they are never dating a 50-year old peer. It is always someone barely out of braces.

    I think it will be a relief if he is gone because honestly there style is so masculine and full of testosterone, it really needs some softening.

    xo Terri

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    1. I think it's because he paid her well above the going rate and she was inexperienced... at the job, anyway.

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  6. pardon my typo - i meant "their" not "there"!

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  7. I am most shocked by the fact that the dalliance was with a woman.

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    1. That was pretty much my second thought... after thinking it was because of his recent design choices.

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    2. Me too. I've been reading the forums or whatever you call them. I guess the girl friend tried to commit suicide after talking to him on the phone. Reportedly she is in a hospital now. I think the supposed issue was misuse of company funds.But he could have repaid the company. He probably would have been a detriment on the IPO roadshow. Due diligence for IPO's bring up a lot of information. A friend was the victim of something similar. He lost his CEO job. He was innocent, but he wasn't there on Sept. 11th when the company was decimated. I'm surprised that the company had a good enough sales and income track record to be able to mount an IPO. If he was that great of a Co-CEO, wouldn't the prospects for the company be changed without him at the helm? I think the plans for his new role and new line are all smoke and mirrors. I wonder what his golden parachute is.

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  8. Friedman's appearance has always given me the creeps. After reading Raina's blog this morning, I found myself saying, "Why would a 26-year-old want a relationship with HIM!?" And then I answered my own question, "Because he's rich!" Yuck!

    I hope his stepping down as CEO will herald the beginnings of a new style, or series of styles, for Restoration Hardware. Like Rebecca Grace, I'm tired of "plane wreck" and "dumpster" as decorating themes. I liked Restoration Hardware when it was all about restoration hardware.

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    1. I agree! He's a bit creepy.

      I hope they move more towards interesting but more realistic design.

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  9. Hahaha! I guess he had "business" with more than just the grass. I am referring to one of odd, supposedly profound quotes on the catalogue. RH is most likely in can if they are offering an IPO soon. I truly despise RH and I am not surprised by this or their mainly horrific offerings.

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    1. I used to love that store, but they closed the only one close to me. No regrets.

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  10. Meg, We're 40 miles away - could you hear my reaction? I guess the need to feed the ego went beyond the self-absorbed photos shoots and editorial comments.
    Re: the new catalog already in print. Can't wait to see what famous, accomplished person he will quote and try to equate himself with. Instead of Steve Jobs, maybe it will be Abraham Lincoln or Mother Theresa?


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  11. Just a thought ; maybe she felt coerced in a way and reported it ( of course I haven't delved into the news reports!)

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena
    2012 Artist Series featuring Harrison Howard

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    1. Apparently, her ex-boyfriend reported it. Jealous?

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  12. Oh and the last catalog was a complete catastrophe as far as I am concerned! Hoping for new ideas for RS

    xoxo
    Karena

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  13. Last night I went to an invitation-only-to-interior-designers open house at Restoration Hardware Baby & Child, which is located right next door to the RH main store. While there, they shared that the new fall catalog for the main store, will be a departure from the 'Belgian' look that has been so prevalent there the past few years. While they are not abandoning that look altogether, the new look will be cleaner, more modern lines. They will also be adding tabletop, such as dishes, stemware, and flatware. In the spring, they will be unveiling a new line of kitchen cabinetry and tile.

    For the new fall Baby & Child, they will be eliminating 70% of what is currently offered, and replacing that with new offerings.

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    1. Thanks for the inside scoop. Some of the children's things didn't look terribly child-friendly, especially the steel beds.

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    2. I remember you did a post on them ,I'd just met you , it was a while ago

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  14. Hubris is the only word that comes to mind. On second thought there is also ego-filled, arrogant, boring, and then, of course, "karma is a bitch". RH has done more to bastardized the antiques business than any other company. By the way, I hate splinters and serrated steel edges with my furniture. (They do have great off-the-shelf draperies.) Thanks for the heads-up.
    Mary

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    1. I heard a story about a small vintage/antiques/salvage shop that said that the RH people came in, bought things and voila, they appeared in the catalogue, made in china, a few months later.

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    2. Hubris will get you every time. Every Time. i.e., Peter Cohen, Lehman Brothers ( 15 years ago?) Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers. Joe Lieberman, US Senate, Chris Shays, House of Representatives. Stan O'Neil, Merrill Lynch, about 2006. Every Time.

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  15. I just happened to go to the RH store in Annapolis this week and felt like a Lilliputian stepping into a man cave. Couldn't get out of there fast enough.

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    1. It's like the Edith Ann character that Lily Tomlin used to play!

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  16. The article said he's still affiliated with RH, and will be bringing out all kinds of new stuff...shoes, clothes, etc, it appears. If they're as revolting as the furniture line, RH is in trouble indeed. I haven't been able to stomach that place for years as the trend was ludicrous. waterworks ripoffs in the bath line, huge, ugly furniture. Yuk.

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    1. I know! It's not like he's going very far!

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  17. I just love reading all the juicy feedback from your readers! Helps me understand I'm not way out in left field on my opinion of RH.

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    1. We had a long talk about this the other night. My friend David loves their stuff but I hate it... Too masculine and heavy for me. Perfect for him.

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  18. RH's stuff screams "urban gay man." Granted, that's a high discretionary income demographic, but it's also a limited one. If Gary was doing a good job as CEO, his personal life would not be cause for concern since both parties are of age (and yes, I spit my Tab when I read "she" was the paramour).

    What design path would YOU follow if appointed Creative Director/President of RH right now?

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    1. I think "urban gay men" have much better taste!

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  19. I think this is a publicity stunt. Yes, i said publicity stunt. only to garner attention and draw "battle" lines why not what else to generate blog o sphere chatter Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. T.G. Santini

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    1. I think that there's more to this than anyone's saying.

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  20. Not knowing either the brand or the man but certainly the story , it all applies : dont mix business with pleasure, hubris, the fallen 'hero" etc.

    Just from the comments though, neither he nor the store sound very popular amongst your readers Meg.

    Any cooler there?, one of our bread manufacturers has put up prices claiming the drought in the US for the cost of wheat, this of course begs the question where does all our Australian wheat go?

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    1. It's cooled off wonderfully, although the middle of the country is in a huge drought.

      As for RH, I think that for a long time, people loved it, but their direction changed a lot and it's not for everyone.

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  21. The main problem with Restoration Hardware is their participation in animal cruelty.

    Designer Stella McCartney has an excellent short video on the leather industry:
    http://www.stellamccartney.com/default/stellas-world/whats-news/stella-peta-anti-leather-video.html

    Stella's interview "On doing the right thing" is worth a go, as well:
    http://www.stellamccartney.com/default/stellas-world/green-me/green-me-stella-charlotte-casiraghi.html

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    1. I am not sure that this has anything to do with what's happened to their CEO.

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  22. Sorry. I liked him. I don't know the man personally, but who gives a flip who he's sleeping with? They were both single adults. I don't know about the 70,000, but maybe she was good at her work, there is that possibility. Funny when a woman is involved that it's the last possibility anyone considers. Anyway, there are plenty of overpaid guys in the world, it won't hurt to have a few overpaid women here and there too. :) I will say, I'm not crazy about the latest furniture with the stuffing hanging out, but I do think he is gutsy, and the collections were irreverent and fun, which, for a store in Restoration's target demographic/pricepoint was refreshing. I'm not sure I understand the criticism about Restoration carrying faux antiques, I just bought a secondhand Regency table that is faux, it's just that when Baker does it, we say it's a "reproduction." Cheers :) N.G.

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    1. Hi there! Nothing wrong with "faux antiques"! Good grief! "Reproductions" are the backbone of my business; for 42 years!

      The "faux antiques" I criticized......(and I think the NYTimes did; were the "deconstructed chairs" where they were not "fully upholstered and the wood frame was visible ) Take a peek at the catalogue.....I found these things insulting to the consumer. I wonder if anyone bought them!?

      Absolutely nothing wrong with "reproductions"! We wouldn't be able to live without them! The older "reproductions" are; the better they are made! Just my opinion!

      Penelope

      ps I don't care who he is sleeping with , either. I think it goes deeper than that..and there are some serious ethical lapses! We shall see!

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    2. J&G... I loved the old RH, and I understand they have to go in a new direction, but the stuffing hanging out and airplane wing look just left me cold.

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    3. Hi Penelope! How are you? I didn't even pay attention to who wrote that. Good point. Actually I thought he was gay. Hi Meg, yep, totally agree, it was getting a little masculine. I guess I liked the energy- that he was willing to push it- I get so bored with the typical catalog stuff. I'd love to see him go work for Williams-Sonoma. :) Lol! N.G.

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  23. Funny,,,I thought he was gay..guess I was out of the loop...

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    1. I think a lot of people had that same thought!

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  24. I liked it all in the beginning! The San Francisco gorgeous building of the premier antique dealer was a coup. The "airplane wing stuff scared me a little)...but I hung in there....their LA store was stunning.....but I noticed the employees were not very happy!

    He gave me the creeps. Sorry. True. Look at those photographs. Creepy.

    When I saw the "deconstructed" fake stuff I wrote about it being complete garbage and hurting the consumer. OUr business has been hard-hit by this recession.....and having someone selling that garbage wasn't good for anyone!

    Turns out he was a creep; is a creep. What on earth will they do with that ridiculous furniture?

    who would be crazy enough to buy that stock?

    Too bad. His ego..Hubris. It happens. I'm really sorry about all the nice people who work in the stores. Such nice people!

    Penelope

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    1. There used to be a RH warehouse outlet about 40 miles from Baltimore and their sales were fabulous. A year or so ago, they got rid of all of their current stock to get in the Belgian things, and then closed the warehouse outlet. End of an era.

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  25. These are all very interesting comments and observations. I used to like RH a lot, back when it first started rolling out their stores in earnest. I loved going to the NY one in the Flat Iron district, and found their useful household gadgets, toys, cleaning supplies, and trifles amusing, useful, and difficult NOT to buy. Aso, their knobs and hardware were marvelous. As the store morphed into a bed-and-bath/mancave furniture store my interest waned. The Belgian stuff was okay for a while, then became oppressive in its relentlessness. And all the pieces were so LARGE, I wondered: does everyone except me live in a huge loft that can take a 20 foot sofa without it looking bizarrely out of place? I was interested to see that more recently they've come out with a scaled-down line of furniture. End of the day, I admire the fellow as a merchandiser, just not sure who he was/is merchanting TO. And, sheesh, guys in positions of power and authority in any firm: keep your hands OFF the subordinates (or, in his case the "other merchandise") no matter how fetching or interested in you they may seem. Ultimately, it comes down to a liability issue--both career-wise: "The Board of Directors has determined that it is no longer in the firm's interest to maintain your employment,sir" AND a liability issue: "The firm of Hughy, Dewey, and Bluey inform the firm of XYZ that we represent the interest of the plaintiff, a former employee of your firm, and we are seeking damages of $100 mm from your firm on their behalf for the emotional and professional harassment of our client, arising from the inappropriate pressures placed on her by your executive, who in so doing created a hostile work environment." It ends in tears, fellas!

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    1. Reggie - I remember making a special stop at the RH by the Flat Iron. It was a great store. I did love their linens and towels, but they became so commonplace.

      Good thoughts.

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  26. Oh My-he always was a creep-in my mind. The shop in LA was so dark + employees did not know anything(poor things). Some one said "Good riddance!" My sentiments entirely. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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    1. Their stores went from bright and airy to dark and overwhelming. I've written about RH a number of times, both good and bad, but lately it's been more negative.

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  27. So this explains the midlife crisis/viagra vibe the stores have given me the last few years. Honestly, as the only place I could see that aesthetic was in some wealthy, male, 50-something's post divorce apartment.
    It will be interesting to see the direction the wind blows...

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  28. For some reason the resignation of Gary Friedman has been on my mind since I read the news on Friday, I suppose because it didn't feel like the entire story. My initial reaction was "good" because I don't think he has been taking the company in the right direction. Like many others, I frequented the stores initially, although I can't remember buying anything other than some great cleaning products. Once they morphed into a furniture store; became so dark; started offering weird merchandise like airplane wing desks; and became rather full of themselves with their over-the-top catalogue, I was done with them. And then there were the sky-high prices. But after reading so many biting comments this weekend, I've taken a bit of a turn. Yes, their merchandise has been bizzare, but you have to admit that they stretched our imaginations and offered a fresh approach. Their products are generally not seen in other stores or catalogues. Maybe we wouldn't want an entire house filled with RH inventory, but what about one focal point in a room, like one of their crystal chandeliers surrounded with rusty iron orbs. And I think the company has done a lot to make us realize that furniture doesn't have to be made solely from wood or have perfectly finished surfaces. Haven't they also done some good in helping us realize the value of repurposing materials and recycling our furnishing components. After all, we absorb bizarre designs during fashion week, with no expectation of purchasing anything close to what we have seen on the runway. But in the end, we may adopt a small portion of an ensemble or a particular color that was showcased. I regret that I was so quick to judge RH and its leadership.

    BTW, I stopped in the Georgetown store today and mentioned the "scandal" to a salesperson. He had no idea what I was referring to. He said that the co-CEO stepped aside to focus on their clothing line and also a record label. How did I miss that piece of information in the press?

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    1. Patty... the side projects were a bit of an aside in the reports. It was in the NYTimes report that I linked. I think the ethical piece was the main reason, but there may have been more from things I've heard.

      To play devil's advocate, I worked in architectural salvage for a few years and think it's great to repurpose things, but somehow, I am not sure that RH is using salvaged materials, more likely, much of what they are doing is made in China.

      I think that they are not being good stewards of our natural resources by sending out 600+ page catalogues, sometimes more than one. The catalogue I received actually broke my mailbox - originally from Restoration Hardware.

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  29. I meant to add that "chaise longue" photographed very strangely

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    1. It's a crazy-looking piece and I love that you spelled it correctly!

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  30. I always like your blog post because you always comes with different ideas and information. I always shared your site post with my friends. Keep posting and i will follow you.

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  31. Huh - I was on vacation that week and never heard the news. Wonder how it will affect their product line. Just got the behemoth catalog this week.

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  32. Somethings not Kosher. You don't fire your mega-successful C.E.O. who is single for having a relationship with another single person right before an I.P.O. I don't buy it. In my gay opinion the man looks like your typical gay man who has pasted middle age and desperately tries to hang onto his youth. Look how he dresses, He's also a work out fiend and other things that make him suspect. I just wonder if this whole "26 y/o woman thing is just a beard created to cover something really ugly. I know that here in Marin, where R.H. is headquartered the flagship store is staffed with a diverse selection of women, of different ages, sizes and looks but the male staff is all very young, not to bright and look like models. I wonder why that is?

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