Lululemon founder Chip Wilson resigns one month after controversial comments
Chip Wilson, the Vancouver billionaire founder of Lululemon Athletica who sparked customer outrage last month when he suggested that the retailer's popular yoga pants aren't appropriate for women without a thigh gap, is resigning as chairman of the board.
Michael Casey, lead director of the board will take his place once Wilson steps down next year, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. The upscale yoga chain also named Laurent Potdevin as chief executive officer.
"After a thorough search, Laurent emerged as the natural choice to lead our continued grown and global expansion," Casey said. "We believe Lululemon will benefit from Laurent's leadership experience and proven track record of success in building global brands."
Potdevin, who recently served as president of Toms Shoes -- the U.S.-based company that donates new shoes to children in need for each pair it sells -- will replace Christine Day. Day announced in June that she planned to step down and is expected to remain with the company until the end of the retailer's financial year in January 2014.
"It is an exceptional brand with an extraordinary team that creates technical, beautiful products, and builds authentic consumer experiences," Potdevin said of the upscale yoga retailer.
Tuesday's announcements come just weeks after Wilson suggested in an interview with Bloomberg TV that patrons were responsible for the company's recent round of reported quality problems: sheerness and pilling.
"There has always been pilling," Wilson said. "The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don't work or, quite frankly, some women's bodies just actually don't work for it."
He added: "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there. I mean, over a period of time, and how much they use it."
According to retail expert Jason Dubroy, Wilson's exit from the company is not a surprise.
"I think most people saw this coming for quite a long time," Dubroy, the vice-president and managing director of Shopper DDB told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
Wilson's departure caps a controversial year for Lululemon. This past spring, the company pulled thousands of pairs of its popular black luon yoga pants from its store shelves over complaints of sheerness. The recall later followed another controversy: customers reporting that they were being asked to bend over in stores to demonstrate the see-through problem.
Lululemon said in a statement that customers who purchased black luon women's bottoms after March 1 could return the affected product without having to "demonstrate" the sheerness.
The recall, which Lululemon said was a result of the fabric used in the pants, hit the company’s revenue hard. In September, Lululemon announced it was lowering its 2013 profit and revenue outlook.
Then in October, new customer complaints began popping up on the company's Facebook page and on its websites, with some saying there were still problems with sheerness and that the pants began pilling after a few months.
Wilson holds about 10 million shares in Lululemon, or roughly a nine per cent stake in the company. The company, which was founded in 1998, rang up $1.4 billion in sales last year.