Lululemon Athletica founder and chairman Chip Wilson resigns; new CEO named

VANCOUVER – Lululemon Athletica named a new chief executive Tuesday and announced founder Chip Wilson is stepping down as chairman, just weeks after his controversial comments that seemingly blaming customers’ weight for problems with the company’s yoga pants.

The company said Tuesday that Laurent Potdevin will takeover as chief executive next month, following Christine Day, who announced her plans to resign in June.

Day is expected to remain with the company to the end of the Vancouver-based company’s financial year in January during the transition.

“After a thorough search, Laurent emerged as the natural choice to lead our continued growth and global expansion,” said Michael Casey, Lululemon’s lead director.

“We believe Lululemon will benefit from Laurent’s leadership experience and proven track record of success in building global brands.”

Potdevin most recently served as president of Toms Shoes, the US-based company that gives away pair of new shoes to a child in need for each pair of shoes it sells. He also spent more than 15 years at Burton Snowboards, including serving as president and CEO from 2005 to 2010.

“It is an exceptional brand with an extraordinary team that creates technical, beautiful products, and builds authentic consumer experiences,” Potdevin said of Lululemon.

The announcement of Day’s replacement and her departure comes ahead of Lululemon’s latest quarterly results on Thursday.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Howard Tubin said the hiring of Potdevin and the recent addition of Tara Poseley as chief product officer removes some uncertainty at Lululemon.

“We hope the new leaders gel with the remaining senior managers and the teams who run the business on a daily basis,” Tubin wrote in a note to clients.

“In addition, we’d also like to see whether Mr. Potdevin embraces the current plans in place for Lululemon or if he’ll want to make his own mark on the company’s strategic direction.

Lululemon has been struggling to deal with issues regarding the sheerness of its Luon yoga pants after pulling them from store shelves in April because they were see-through.

The company has blamed the problems on a style change and production issues.

But in an interview last month, Wilson ignited a storm of criticism by suggesting to Bloomberg TV that production issues may not be the only issue.

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it,” he said. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there.”

Wilson, who holds about 10 million shares in Lululemon or roughly a nine per cent stake in the company, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters, will step down as chairman ahead of the company’s annual meeting in June, but remain a director.

The company said the board has chosen Casey as the next chairman.