The chief executive and president of troubled fashion giant Gap Inc, Millard Drexler, has announced he is to retire and will leave the company after 19 years of service as soon as the board finds a replacement.

The surprise announcement came in a statement issued by the California-based operator of over 4,200 stores late on Tuesday. Company chairman Donald Fisher and board members Bob Fisher, Adrian Bellamy and Arun Sarin will lead the search for his successor.