Signet Shocker: Mark Light Becomes CEO as Michael Barnes Resigns

In a sudden and unexpected move, Mark Light has become the CEO of Signet Jewelers, replacing Michael Barnes, the CEO since 2011. 

Light is the company’s third CEO in the past five years. 

Light, 52, a 30-year company veteran whose father Nate served as Sterling CEO, is currently the company’s chief operating officer and president. For years he headed Sterling, the company’s U.S. division that encompasses Kay and Jared, and was recently given responsibility for overseeing the Zale and U.K. divisions. When Terry Burman, Barnes’ predecessor, stepped down in 2010, Light took himself out of the running for the CEO post.

Barnes, a former Fossil executive, is stepping down effective Oct. 31, a statement said, adding that he had expressed a “personal desire to relocate nearer to his family and pursue opportunities closer to his home in Dallas.”  

“Mike’s decision was his own,” added spokesperson David Bouffard.

Analyst Ike Boruchow of Sterne Agee called Barnes’ resignation “unexpected” but added Light was a “strong replacement.”

Light “has extensive experience with the company, and he has been instrumental in the recent success of the business,” Boruchow said. “During his time at the helm, sales in the U.S. more than tripled, causing Signet to become the number one specialty jeweler in the country.” 

The company has not yet decided whether to replace Light as chief operating officer, says Bouffard. It has previously announced it is looking for a chief strategy officer and chief information officer.

“I am extremely pleased with the progress we are making integrating the Zale division, and I remain confident that we will achieve our three-year synergy expectations of $150 million to $175 million,” said Light in a statement.

A statement from board chairman Todd Stitzer called Light “an experienced, strategic leader who has been deeply involved in the company’s Vision 2020 strategy, the Zale acquisition, and its ongoing integration.… He has also been an advisor to our U.K. managing director since 2013 and became formally responsible for that business in mid-2014. These valuable attributes have been developed during his long and successful career of over 30 years with Signet, and the board of directors is confident that Mark is the right person to lead the company forward as Signet enhances its position as a leading retailer in the U.S., U.K., and Canada.” 

Signet is the leading jeweler in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom and is the world’s largest by store count.  

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JCK News Director