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The RealReal Founder and CEO Resigns; COO and CFO Step in as Co-Interim CEOs

The RealReal Founder, CEO and Chairperson Julie Wainwright has left the company, effective June 7. President and COO Rati Sahi Levesque and CFO Robert Julian will lead the company as Co-Interim CEOs as the retailer searches for a permanent CEO. Wainwright will continue serving in an advisory role as Founder through the end of 2022.

Wainwright’s “decision to resign was not due to any disagreements with the company,” according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 6. “The RealReal continues to make progress on its path to profitability, and I feel now is the right time for the next generation of leadership to guide the company through its next chapter,” said Wainwright in a statement.

Levesque has served as President of The RealReal since 2021 and COO since 2019. She previously served as CMO of The RealReal from 2012 to 2019 and owned Anica Boutique, a fashion and home store. Julian has served as CFO since 2021 and has over 30 years of financial management experience in both public and private companies. Prior to joining The RealReal, Julian served in various executive leadership roles at Sportsman’s Warehouse, Deluxe Entertainment Services, Callaway Golf and Lydall.

“Rati and Robert bring complementary skillsets that together create a powerful combination of operational, financial and industry expertise,” said Rob Krolik, Lead Independent Director at The RealReal. “Rati has been with the company since its founding and has worked side-by-side with Julie to grow the business from the ground up, creating our merchandising strategy, encouraging our sustainability efforts and managing our operations. A valuable member of senior management since he joined The RealReal, Robert’s perspective and leadership have been instrumental in navigating challenges during the last year.”

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The RealReal has struggled to reach profitability despite strong sales growth. Total revenue increased 48% in Q1 2022 as its number of active buyers rose 21% to 828,000, but its loss widened to $57 million in Q1 2022 from $56 million in Q1 2021. The RealReal is aiming to reach profitability by 2024, but that may not be fast enough for investors — its share price has fallen from a peak of nearly $22.50 in June 2019 to approximately $3 in June 2022.

However, The RealReal was confident in its future during a Q1 2022 earnings call with investors. “Looking forward, we continue to see strong demand in our business,” said Wainwright during the call. “As inflation has ramped up and prices have increased in the primary luxury market, we believe the RealReal is a demonstrated value option offering unique and highly coveted items within the luxury goods space. Therefore, we believe we are positioned for a strong 2022.”

This emphasis on luxury goods could help The RealReal achieve its goals. Geronimo Chala, Chief Client Officer at Rebag, noted that luxury will be a major driver in the resale market moving forward. Gen Z in particular is very interested in luxury fast fashion and has no problem with buying secondhand items, making The RealReal’s approach a powerful draw for this growing group of consumers.

“There was no other industry, really, that was growing at such an exponential rate during the pandemic,” Chala said during his keynote at retailX 2021. “Think about what happened during the pandemic — key partnerships like Gucci and The RealReal, investments into Vestiaire from full-price luxury retailers, IPOs during the pandemic, companies making $200 million in gross revenue and being valued at $2 billion. This is the reality of the resale industry, there’s quite a bit of disruption. If you’re not actually developing a resale concept into your full-price world you’re already behind the eight ball.”

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