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PARIS — Jochen Zeitz, the executive who turned Puma from a struggling sporting goods maker into a global powerhouse, has resigned as member and chairman of the company’s administrative board, effective Nov. 30.
This story first appeared in the October 16, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In his 22 years at the Herzogenaurach, Germany-based brand, Zeitz helped sales climb from around 250 million euros a year to more than 3 billion euros in 2011. He also championed sustainable development, both at Puma and later at parent company PPR as a whole.
In 2011, he handed over the chief executive officer position at Puma to Franz Koch, who was charged with meeting the company’s ambitious target of posting sales of 4 billion euros by 2015. But Puma has hit a rough patch, with its profitability declining over the last two years.
The board of Puma is expected to elect PPR group managing director Jean-François Palus as its new chairman, effective Dec. 1, at its regular meeting on Oct. 23. At a recent PPR press day with top managers, Palus said Puma needed to take action rapidly to address its poor results.
“Puma is a fantastic brand, but its results are far from fantastic. That’s what we’re working on,” Palus said. He noted that consumers were confused by the merging of Puma’s sports and lifestyle segments, and the company would aim to spotlight its performance products more distinctly in future.
Zeitz has gradually pulled out of his operational duties at PPR to focus on his campaigning in the areas of sustainability and conservation, which include the creation with Sir Richard Branson of The B Team, a coalition of international ceo’s and business leaders looking for ways to make capitalism more socially responsible.
In March, Zeitz was named a director of the board of PPR and chairman of its newly minted sustainable development committee. He subsequently stepped down from his positions as head of PPR’s sport and lifestyle division and chief sustainability officer.
“According to Jochen Zeitz, it will certainly make sense to hand over management of the Puma administrative board to the representative of its major shareholder, who is responsible for operations, after he concluded his operational position as ceo of PPR’s sport and lifestyle division earlier this month,” said a spokesman for Puma.
Zeitz had revealed his intention to quit the Puma board in German magazine Manager last month. He informed François-Henri Pinault, chairman and ceo of PPR, of his decision by letter, according to the company.