Sometimes, when the visionary founder of a high-growth company steps aside, it strikes fear in the heart of investors, creating concerns about “key man risk” and irreplaceability.
But Lululemon investors might not be too distraught over today’s departure of Chip Wilson, the chairman and founder of the well-known yoga pants producer.
Wilson, you will recall, recently set off a public relations storm when he attempted to blame the see-through scandal that struck Lululemon’s trademark black yoga pants earlier this year on the thighs of customers.
“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies actually just don’t work for it,” he told Bloomberg. “Even our small sizes would fit an extra large. It’s more about the rubbing through the thighs.” The comment sparked a social media uproar, and an inspired a petition by change.org to get Wilson to step aside.
It’s not the first time his actions have raised eyebrows. Wilson is also seen as the svengali behind the company’s strange internal culture which has been compared to a cult. Just take a look at its manifesto here. Gawker described him a “Rand obsessed ideologue,” after the company printed a slogan from the Ayn Rand’s libertarian novel Atlas Shrugged on its bags. As the company blog explains (emphasis original):
Chip Wilson, first read this book when he was eighteen years old working away from home. Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (it is not coincidental that this is lululemon’s company vision).
Put simply, Wilson sounds like a challenging guy to work with.
But now Laurent Potdevin won’t have to. The former executive at TOMS Shoes and snowboarding company Burton was appointed by Lululemon as its new CEO today.
Potdevin has big shoes to fill in replacing the highly regarded Christine Day. And he also faces a multitude of operational challenges, including shoring up the company’s supply chain and focusing the company’s sometimes haphazard international expansion.
But, luckily for Potdevin, dealing with a somewhat eccentric founder serving as chairman won’t be on his plate.