Chip Wilson: Lululemon Chairman Resigns; TOMS CEO Taking the Helm

Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013 02:59 PM

By David Ogul

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Lululemon Athletica Inc. will soon be under new management. Company founder Chip Wilson has stepped down as chairman of the Vancouver-based manufacturer of upscale athletic wear, and TOMS Shoes president Laurent Potdevin has been named CEO.

Lululemon has faced several challenges of late and was forced to recall some of its black stretchy pants in March because they were see-through. The Chicago Tribune noted the company also is facing stiff competition. Wilson didn’t help matters when he recently said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that Lululemon pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies.”

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“This company has jeopardized its long-term relationship with its customers over the last year, via some product quality issues, via some board communication by its founder,” Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss told the Tribune. “What I’ll be looking for are signs that they can re-engage their customers in a positive way.”

Bloomberg reported that Lululemon is dealing with slowing gains after seven years of increasing sales 16 fold. CEO Christine Day announced in June that she was stepping down.

“As Laurent joins as CEO, I believe that now is the right time for me to begin to transition out of my role as chairman of the board,” Wilson said in a statement.

TOMS has been praised for its charitable practice of giving a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair sold.

Bloomberg reported Laurent is expected to begin his new job as CEO in January, and Wilson will step down as board chairman in June.

Former Starbucks executive Michael Casey will take over as chairman after Wilson steps down.

Analysts say Wilson’s departure should be good for business.

“We view Wilson’s departure as chairman as a positive because he is obviously considered something of a loose cannon who may have been alienating consumers and certainly seems to have had that effect on some investors,” said Cowen and Co. research analyst Faye Landes, according to the Tribune.

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