World Retail Congress 2019


James Rhee

James Rhee

James Rhee

Executive Chairman & CEO, Ashley Stewart
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba


Mr. Rhee is an impact-focused entrepreneur, investor, operator and educator. As both CEO and investment firm founder, Mr. Rhee has generated market-leading returns by creating bespoke capital and operational solutions through the contemporaneous application of algorithmic, technologic and cultural change. He has a uniquely diverse network and knowledge base spanning the private equity, retail/consumer, venture and media/technology communities. At Ashley Stewart, as Chairman and CEO, Mr. Rhee has authored and executed upon an innovative complement of CRM, digital and organizational changes that have transformed a twice bankrupt, unprofitable brick-and-mortar retailer with decades of operating losses into an industry leader founded upon a values-based, social commerce paradigm. FirePine Group, the investment firm he founded in 2009, has invested the capital of some of the world’s most sophisticated investors and their family offices to successfully fuel transformative and impactful change in multiple enterprises, including Ashley Stewart.

Prior to this, Mr. Rhee was a senior investment professional at two leading, Boston-based investment firms, one specializing in growth and the other focused on distress. Mr. Rhee has played a leadership role in multiple platforms, including the carve-out of the Meow Mix brand from Ralston Purina, the purchase and then turnaround of Murray's Discount Auto Stores from a bank group, the growth catalyst investment in Mattress Firm and the turnaround of Ultra Diamonds.

Mr. Rhee is a visiting lecturer at Duke Law School and teaches his proprietary valuation and happiness class at leading educational institutions and professional organizations across the country. He is a regional winner of the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the recipient of one of five 2016 Power Player Awards granted by the National Retail Federation, the 2017 recipient of the Black Retail Action Group Business Achievement Award and the 2018 Temple Fox School of Business Information Technology Innovator Award. He is a member of the board of the National Retail Federation. His story, along with the story of Ashley Stewart, has been chronicled in the world’s leading publications and media outlets, including the Good Business Issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, Harvard Business Review, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Thrive Global and Cheddar.

Mr. Rhee received his AB with honors from Harvard College and his JD with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He lives outside Boston with his wife and three daughters. He is a former high school teacher.


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