BERLIN — The chief executive officer of Hugo Boss will step down at the end of September. Mark Langer has been with the German marquee brand for almost 18 years and has been ceo since 2016.
During his tenure, Langer focused on building up Hugo Boss
’ online presence, revamping stores and pushing business in Asia, particularly in mainland China. There had been slow but steady success in these areas after years of less positive performance before Langer took over.
A spokesperson from Hugo Boss confirmed that Langer had made the decision to leave together with the company’s supervisory board. Listed German companies have two boards: one is supervisory, representing shareholder and labor interests; and the other is managerial, concerned with the daily running of the business.
Langer headed the managerial board, but the supervisory board decided he was no longer the right person for that job.
Earlier this year, activist investors agitated for faster progress at Hugo Boss — this included a letter demanding an overhaul of Langer’s strategy and changes in top management. But a Boss spokesperson told WWD that the Italy-based activist investors, Bluebell Capital Partners, who had sent the letter, did not have anything to do with the ceo’s decision to step down. Bluebell Capital Partners holds a minority stake in Hugo Boss.
The Marzotto family from Italy, who upped their shares in Hugo Boss to 15 percent in February through their companies, PFC and Zignano Holding, were reportedly not satisfied with Langer either.
According to media reports in Germany, Swiss bank UBS appeared to be preparing for the covert entry of a new shareholder at Hugo Boss. The bank was holding 9.16 percent of the company’s voting rights, although it was not clear on whose behalf.
Critics had already said Hugo Boss’ communications and marketing strategy, and its collections, lacked flair and sex appeal, compared to other similarly sized fashion businesses.
Langer’s successor has yet to be named. Apparel industry insiders say that, because of the alleged need for a revamp, Boss will most likely search for a replacement outside of the company. Among candidates floated is Daniel Grieder, currently ceo of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe. It is understood Hugo Boss courted Grieder for ceo in 2016 before Langer took the job.
Inside the company, Langer, known as a capable, straight-talker, was well-liked and seen as having done a lot for the brand. For example, it was his push to upgrade the company’s digital offerings that is allowing employees to work from home right now, using new IT structures and systems he initiated.
The ouster of the manager has caused emotion and controversy inside the company, which is already feeling the impact of the coronavirus
shutdown. Even after September, Langer will continue to act as a consultant for Hugo Boss to help the brand work through the impacts of the crisis.
Last week, Hugo Boss said it was closing most of its own retail stores as well as points of sale in Europe and North America. “The resulting negative effect on the group’s sales and earnings development is impossible to quantify at this stage,” the company’s statement said, adding that previous guidance for 2020 was no longer valid.