Lululemon names new CEO; founder Chip Wilson resigns as chairman

Lululemon shook up its C-suite, naming a new CEO and announcing that founder Chip Wilson would step down as chairman.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
<i>This post has been updated, as indicated below.</i>

Chip Wilson, who founded upscale yoga apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc., will resign as chairman next year, the company said while also announcing that it had found a replacement for its outgoing chief executive.

Laurent Potdevin, president of Santa Monica shoe company Toms and a former CEO of Burton Snowboards, will take over from Lululemon Chief Executive Christine Day in January. Potdevin will also become a Lululemon board member.

Day had stayed on with the company to help find her successor after announcing plans in June to step down.


Swapping out Wilson was a more unexpected move.

Board member Michael Casey will become chairman once Wilson resigns, a step he’ll take before Lululemon’s annual meeting in June. Wilson will retain his seat on the board.

Wilson had recently sparked customer rage after saying in a television interview this fall that “some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” in the chain’s popular yoga pants.

The suggestion that patrons were responsible for the company’s most recent round of quality concerns -- continued sheerness, pilling after a few wears and rips -- sparked ire on social media and tsk-tsking by analysts.

In the spring, Lululemon had to recall its black yoga pants -- which accounted for 17% of its sales -- after customers complained that they were see-through.

[Updated, 7:30 a.m. PST Dec. 10: Analysts reacted positively to the executive shakeup.

Liz Dunn of Macquarie Capital wrote in a note to clients that Potdevin “has ample experience and may also be a cultural fit.”

“Our initial reaction is that this is a great hire,” she wrote.

Dunn added that separating Potdevin’s arrival from Wilson’s departure by just a few months “creates a cleaner management structure and less room for conflict between the founder/chairman and the incoming CEO.”

Howard Tubin, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients that he was encouraged by the moves.

Bringing Potdevin on board soon after hiring Kmart alum Tara Poseley as chief product officer in October “clearly remove[s] some uncertainty from the LULU story,” Tubin wrote.

But he said that Day’s roughly five-year tenure at Lululemon, which is reporting third-quarter earnings on Thursday, “can only be described as wildly successful” and that Wilson’s “creative energies will be missed as well.”]


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