Dec. 10 (UPI) — Controversial Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson announced Tuesday that he will step down as chairman of the yoga brand’s board, ahead of the company’s earnings release Thursday.
In his place will be former Starbucks executive Mike Casey, who has been on the board for six years. Laurent Potdevin will take over as CEO, as current CEO Christine Day announced her resignation in June. Potdevin has worked as an executive at key fashion retail brands including TOMS Shoes and Burton Snowboards, and as a manager at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA.
“I’ve learned to work with founders and respect their vision,” Potdevin said in a Wall Street Journal interview. “I will be reporting to the board and not to Chip.”
Since its founding in 1998, Chip Wilson built Lululemon up to a $1.4 billion brand competing with Nike, Under Armour and Gap, though it now faces increasing competition. Retail brands overall have seen a struggling season with tightening wages, and Lululemon is known to be a more upscale brand.
Lululemon share prices have declined nearly 8 percent this year, and there were a number of mishaps with its key product, black yoga pants. When the pants were criticized for being see-through and pilling, Wilson hinted that the pants were only made for women with certain body types.
“Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work” for the pants, he told Bloomberg. This exclusionary principle put Wilson under fire from the media, customers and shareholders. The company has since then struggled with quality control issues, costing the company tens of millions of dollars.
After news of Wilson’s departure, Lululemon’s share price has been inching upward by almost 1 percent Monday morning in Nasdaq trading.