Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson steps down from board

A Lululemon store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is used as a temporary yoga studio on June 19, 2011.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Lululemon Athletica Inc. founder Chip Wilson, who helped make the yoga pant a wardrobe staple for many women, has resigned from the retailer’s board.

In the last year, Wilson has tussled publicly with Lululemon’s board over the company’s direction. He said Monday that he was leaving to work with his wife and son on a new streetwear brand.

“I believe that now is the right time to step away,” Wilson said in a statement.

Wilson started Vancouver, Canada-based Lululemon in 1998. The brand helped pioneer a wave of stylish workout gear that women increasingly wear in daily life outside the gym. The company has grown to more than 250 stores.


The retailer and its founder have weathered their share of rough times.

Wilson resigned as chairman in late 2013 after Lululemon was forced to recall thousands of black yoga pants because of a manufacturing defect that made them see-through -- a wardrobe malfunction that online wits quickly dubbed “sheer-gate.”

The ensuing customer backlash was fueled by suggestions made by Wilson during a television interview that some of the quality problems could be blamed on women whose bodies just didn’t work with his company’s pants.

Then in June, Wilson said publicly that some Lululemon board members were too intent on short-term growth, and that he planned to vote against the reelection of some directors.


Those tensions cooled off when Wilson sold 50% of his stake in the company to private equity firm Advent International for a hefty $845 million. The deal gave Advent control of nearly 14% of outstanding shares in the retailer. Wilson’s stake in the company is also about 14%.

Wilson said Monday that he believed Lululemon was back on track after it had “lost its way.”

“I had to raise a strong voice to make myself heard,” he said. “I am happy to say that I now believe the company has returned to the core values that made it great.”

Shares of Lululemon closed down 72 cents, or 1.1%, to $65.52.


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