Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin resigns over issue of misconduct

Lululemon Athletica Inc’s chief executive Laurent Potdevin has resigned from his current position and as a member of the company's board of directors, effective immediately. The company said in a statement that Lululemon expects all employees to exemplify the highest levels of integrity and respect for one another, and Potdevin fell short of these standards of conduct and that the board has begun a search to hire a new global chief executive officer.

"While this was a difficult and considered decision, the board thanks Laurent for his work in strengthening the company and positioning it for the future," said Glenn Murphy, Executive Chairman of the board, adding, "Culture is at the core of Lululemon, and it is the responsibility of leaders to set the right tone in our organization. Protecting the organization's culture is one of the board's most important duties." Following Potdevin sudden departure, Lululemon has appointed Murphy to the newly created role of Executive Chairman.

"While the reasons for the departure of Laurent Potdevin are unclear, his exit is a blow to Lululemon," said Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData Retail in a statement. "During his tenure, Mr. Potdevin oversaw the steady expansion of Lululemon through both calm and rough periods in the athleisure market. His innovative approach and his clear sense of Lululemon's values and essence is one of the reasons the company has enjoyed continued success, even while other sporting brands struggle to generate growth."

"Although we see Executive Chairman Glenn Murphy as a capable pair of hands in the short term, Lululemon needs a CEO to guide it as it expands overseas and tries to make further gains in its home market. It is crucial that the right person is selected, but it is equally appointment that the task is undertaken with urgency so that Lululemon doesn't lose momentum," he added.

"We also believe that today's announcement is vague and damaging. Lululemon owes it to investors and to customers, to be clear about the reasons Mr. Potdevin was made to depart. As a company that prides itself on transparency and openness, we would expect it to have an honest conversation with stakeholders. Failure to do so will likely lead to speculation which could ultimately harm the brand."

Glenn Murphy assumes Executive Chairman’s position

In his newly expanded role as Executive Chairman, the company added, Murphy will focus on achieving long-term, sustainable results for all stakeholders. Three of Lululemon's senior leaders are being elevated and will take on additional responsibilities, reporting to Murphy.

Executive Chairman of the company, and Chairman of the board, Murphy joined Lululemon in 2017. He is the founder and CEO of FIS Holdings ,a consumer-focused investment firm deploying a combination of operating guidance and capital flexibility. From 2007 to 2014, Murphy served as chairman and CEO at Gap Inc. Previously, he served as chairman and CEO of Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation and held senior leadership roles at Loblaw Companies.

The newly elevated roles include Celeste Burgoyne, Executive Vice President, Americas, who will oversee all channel and brand-facing aspects of the global business, including stores and e-commerce, as well as brand marketing; Stuart Haselden, Chief Operating Officer, will have responsibility for all operations related to finance, supply chain, people, and technology; and Sun Choe, Senior Vice President of merchandising, will guide all aspects of product development, design, innovation, and merchandising.

Burgoyne joined Lululemon in 2006 to lead the US expansion and has since held a series of roles of expanding responsibility, including senior vice president, retail, North America where she was responsible for overseeing all Canadian and US retail. Burgoyne started her career with Abercrombie & Fitch, where she held various leadership positions during her 10 years with the company.

Haselden joined Lululemon as Chief Financial Officer in 2015. Prior to that, his career spans 15 years of executive leadership at global apparel retailers, including Saks Incorporated and J. Crew Group, Inc., where he most recently served as chief financial officer.

Choe joined the company in 2016 as Chief Global Product Merchant with extensive experience in senior leadership roles at well-known brands, including Madewell, West Elm and Urban Outfitters.

"The board is entirely confident that Celeste, Stuart and Sun - three leaders deeply tied to the recent momentum in the business - can continue to execute on Lululemon's growth strategy and drive global performance. Based upon their contributions to the recent expansion of the business, their history of collaboration with one another and their strong support across the Lululemon organization, we believe this trio of leaders will take Lululemon from strength to strength," added Murphy.

The company also reaffirmed its updated guidance provided on January 8, 2018, that reflects the ongoing momentum of the business. In addition, the company further added that its growth strategies remain on track to achieve 4 billion dollars in revenue in 2020.

Photo: Lululemon

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