Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson has resigned from the company’s board, but will retain his stake in the yoga apparel firm.
Wilson, who founded the company in 1998, left his position as its chief innovation and branding officer in January 2012. He went on a sabbatical to Australia and returned to the company in 2013 to assist in positioning Lululemon’s longer-term objectives. Since then, there’s been a transition in senior management at the company, with Laurent Potdevin taking on the role of chief executive officer in January 2014. He succeeded Christine Day, who revealed her plan to resign in June 2013, but stayed on until her successor was named.
In August 2014, Wilson reached an agreement to sell half his stake in the company to private equity firm Advent International in a deal worth about $845 million. The transaction gave Advent 20.1 million shares, or a 13.9 percent stake, and two board seats. Those seats went to Advent managing partner David Mussafer and managing director Steve Collins, and expanded the board to 12 members. In connection with the transaction, Wilson and Advent agreed to certain standstill provisions for the firm’s 2015 and 2016 annual meetings.
A spokesman for Lululemon said Wilson “has no plans to sell his shares at this time.” Wilson owns a 13.8 percent stake in the company.
Wilson said, “Upon returning from Australia, I saw that the company had lost its way and was driven by the wrong values….I am happy to say that I now believe the company has returned to the core values that made it great — product, brand and culture — and is back on track.”
Wilson added that he has achieved the “goals I set when I came back, and after careful thought, I believe that now is the right time to step away from the board.” He noted that he has the time to work with his wife and son as they grow their streetwear brand, Kit and Ace. Founded last year, the brand showcases a “luxury-technical fabric” trademarked under the name Qemir (pronounced “come here”) and is a proprietary blend of cashmere, viscose and elastane.
The company, Wilson said, will continue to pursue other ventures, including the establishment of Vancouver as the center for technical apparel through the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen University.
While hardly as controversial a figure as Dov Charney, the ousted founder and ceo of American Apparel Inc., Wilson complicated Lululemon’s public relations difficulties when, in the midst of a recall of its overly sheer black Luon yoga pants in 2013, he said the pants weren’t right for “some women’s bodies.” He departed the company as chairman in December 2013, but retained his board seat as a director.
Shares of Lululemon on Monday slipped 1.1 percent to $65.52 in Nasdaq trading.