In a surprising change-of-command at Spanx, chief executive officer Laurie Ann Goldman is leaving the shapewear giant, WWD has learned.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Goldman is credited with a long and successful run building the Spanx business from a spunky start-up into an internationally-recognized household brand.
“She took the company from practically nothing to $300 million to $400 million with high profits,” said one retail source. “She’s a strong, terrifically talented leader.”
Gregg Ribatt, a shoe executive, has been tapped as interim ceo. Some sources were surprised at the appointment, considering Ribatt’s background in footwear, though they also noted that it’s a temporary appointment.
Ribatt is expected to commute from Boston to Atlanta where Spanx is based, rather than relocate.
“Laurie Ann’s contributions over the last 12 years have been incredible,” said Spanx founder Sara Blakely. “She has been a driving force in helping to shape Spanx into the brand and company it is today, including positioning us for tremendous growth in the future. I know Laurie Ann will continue to do great things.”
Blakely said Goldman is leaving Spanx “by mutual agreement.”
“I have loved my time as ceo of Spanx,” Goldman said. “Over 12 years, we built an incredible business and a global brand at a meteoric pace, and I am so proud of all we have accomplished together. It has been great fun but it is now time for me to do something different and take on new challenges.”
Another market source speculated Goldman could have been nudged out. “There could be a couple of things behind this — a difference in strategy on how to go forward, or it could be that the board felt Laurie Ann was amazing for this first phase of growth and now wants someone else to take it to a billion dollar business, and maybe do an IPO and sell the company,” the source said.
Blakely was said to have just informed her team Monday about Goldman’s departure.
Goldman was ceo of Spanx since 2002. Earlier, she was head of worldwide product licensing for Coca-Cola, which like Spanx, is based in Atlanta.
Ribatt served as president and ceo of Collective Brands’ performance and lifestyle group with Sperry Top-Sider, Saucony, Keds and Stride Rite among its brands. Earlier, he served as president and ceo of Stuart Weitzman. He also is a member of the Crocs board and the Spanx Advisory Board. Spanx said Ribatt will assist in the search for its new ceo.
“Gregg is an operations executive, he knows how to build brands but he has no interest in leaving Boston. When Collective Brands’ performance and lifestyle group was sold to Wolverine [in 2012], he made a ton of money,” a source said.
According to company information, Spanx is sold in more than 50 countries and has four brands — Assets, Red Hot Label, Star Power and Spanx. In addition to slimming apparel, swimsuits, bras, activewear and men’s undershirts and underwear, the company has recently expanded into swim, active, jeans/bottoms and Spanx for Men.