James Rhee

Chairman & CEO
Ashley Stewart
Mr. Rhee is the Founder and President of FirePine Group and also serves as the Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ashley Stewart, an iconic and multi-channel plus-size fashion brand with a market-leading social media and digital commerce global footprint.  At Ashley Stewart, Mr. Rhee has authored a paradigm-disrupting complement of algorithms, CRM and operational solutions that have transformed a twice bankrupt, unprofitable brick-and-mortar retailer with no WiFi at its corporate offices into a high growth, digitally driven business posting record profitability in less than one year.  Because of his track record, Mr. Rhee was able to secure a commitment from Clearlake Capital to back his strategy in an unlikely exit from Chapter 11 proceedings in April 2014. By forging relationships amongst his diverse contact base and through the application of lean processes, Mr. Rhee has assembled a team that has propelled Ashley Stewart to the vanguard of mobile, social and site-to-store commerce.  FirePine Group holds a significant investment in Ashley Stewart.

As both a control investor and activist operator, Mr. Rhee has stewarded companies with an aggregate enterprise value in the billions.  He has a proven investment and operating track record spanning nearly two decades involving companies at inflection points requiring smart capital and the leveraging of a diversified network and knowledge base in the private equity, restructuring and venture communities.  Mr. Rhee has held senior level positions at J.W. Childs Associates, L.P. and Gordon Brothers Group.  Illustrative prior investment and/or operational involvement have included the turnaround and repositioning of Ultra Diamonds in partnership with Crystal Capital, the carve-out of the Meow Mix cat food brand from Ralston Purina, and the growth catalyst investment in Mattress Firm (Nasdaq: MFRM).

Mr. Rhee is an honors graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He is also a former high school teacher. 

10:05 Keynote Case Study: The Digital, Cultural and Algorithmic Reinvention of Ashley Stewart – A Story of Core Principles and Innovation

Learn how a twice bankrupt brick-and-mortar retailer (without corporate WiFi) has become one of the country’s fastest growing, most engaged multi-channel brands in less than one year. Ashley Stewart is now a leading global plus-size fashion brand with a national store footprint, with tons of social engagement and a super high growth mobile driven eCommerce platform. Using learnings from their journey, this keynote will show a story of a digital revolution whose foundation was set in the principles and core values of their customers.