New Lulu leadership: Founder Chip Wilson steps down, former TOMS president steps up

Current CEO Chip Wilson steps down, former TOMS president steps up
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Following a string of embarrassing indiscretions, Lululemon Athletica founder Dennis “Chip” Wilson has stepped down as executive chairman at the Vancouver, Canada-based company. Current CEO Christine Day unexpectedly announced her resignation in June, and Lululemon announced Tuesday that the board of directors appointed Laurent Potdevin as Day’s successor.

Potdevin, former president of TOMS Shoes, will begin his duties at Lululemon in January. “After a thorough search, Laurent emerged as the natural choice to lead our continued growth and global expansion,” said Michael Casey, lead director of the Lululemon board of directors and member of the CEO search committee, in a press release. “We believe Lululemon will benefit from Laurent's leadership experience and proven track record of success in building global brands.” Casey, a former Starbucks executive, will sit down into Wilson’s chairman seat.

In March, Lululemon recalled almost 20 percent of its Luon yoga pants because of complaints that the material was too thin, resulting in sheerness when stretched. The company offered full refunds and pulled the pants from shelves, blaming the flaws on a defective batch coming from Taiwan. The Taiwanese company, Eclat Textile, unsurprisingly denied responsibility, claiming that Lululemon approved the shipments.

During an interview on Bloomberg TV in November, when asked about Lululemon’s see-through pants problem, Wilson admitted that there were design flaws, but it wasn’t necessarily the pants’ fault. “The thing is that … quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it,” he said, which set off a firestorm of comments attacking Wilson. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, and how much they use it.”

Laurent, born in Switzerland, started his career at French luxury conglomerate LVMH before moving to Burton Snowboards for more than 25 years, where he served as COO, head of operations, and then CEO and president from 2005 to 2010. His most recent position was at TOMS, which provides one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased.

“I am excited and honored to be joining Lululemon,” said Potdevin. “It is an exceptional brand with an extraordinary team that creates technical, beautiful products, and builds authentic consumer experiences. The tremendous success of this company to date and the potential for future growth are both exciting and inspiring. I look forward to working with everyone at Lululemon to continue to build and drive the brand forward."

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