New Look chief operating officer Lex Gemas has exited the value fashion chain after little more than a year at the business.

Gemas was billed as an international heavy-hitter when he joined New Look in May 2009 from Hong Kong-based young fashion chain Esprit, where he had been head of global retail since 2005. He was charged with spearheading New Look’s international growth and his role was later expanded to include overall responsibility for buying, merchandising and design.

The departure comes less than six months after the retailer’s failed £1.7bn IPO was postponed.

It is thought that Gemas decided to step down because the postponement of the IPO would result in a slower pace of overseas expansion at the chain. He is understood to have wanted a role with a focus on the Far East, and is thought to have secured another job in the region, said to be back at Esprit.

Gemas has 25 years’ experience in international fashion, mainly at iconic US department stores Nordstrom and Macy’s, Limited Brands - the owner of lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret - and US fashion giant Gap.

At New Look, Gemas worked alongside managing director in charge of channels to market Will Kernan and reported to chief executive Carl McPhail. He was touted as a possible successor to McPhail.

McPhail cited personal reasons for Gemas’ departure. He said: “While we are disappointed at Lex’s decision, we have an extremely strong and experienced operational team that will now report directly to me. We expect to announce a replacement in due course.”

In February New Look, owned by Apax and Permira, pulled its IPO, citing an unfavourable market backdrop. As part of its growth plans as a public business, New Look said it would expand and refurbish its UK stores, broaden its product ranges, grow ecommerce and expand overseas. It is unclear if and when it will try to float again.

New Look has 426 international stores and 49 franchise stores in 13 countries including France, Belgium, Russia, Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Middle East and Singapore.