Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson is stepping down from the company’s board of directors.
“I believe that now is the right time to step away from the board,” Wilson, 59, said in a statement on Monday.
Wilson is leaving the company that he founded in 1998 after a tumultuous tenure that led to a series of unfortunate headlines for the company.
The move comes one year after Wilson resigned from his role as chairman of the board and three years after he was forced to step aside as chief innovation and branding officer of the company.
Lululemon lost many loyal customers after the company was forced to recall 17% of its yoga pants for being too sheer in March of 2013. Wilson later caused an uproar by suggesting in a Bloomberg TV interview that some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for his yoga pants.
“Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it,” Wilson said in the interview. “They don’t work for some women’s bodies…it’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”
After that interview, Lululemon’s board advised Wilson to refrain from further public statements, the New York Times reports.
Here’s the company’s news release on Wilson’s departure.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Today, lululemon athletica inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) Founder Chip Wilson announced that he is stepping down from lululemon’s Board of Directors. Mr. Wilson, who founded lululemon in 1998, led the company through many business cycles as he expanded it from a small storefront in Vancouver to an international brand with over 250 stores.
In January 2012, Mr. Wilson left his position as Chief Innovation and Branding Officer at lululemon and began a sabbatical in Australia where he was away from day to day management. In the spring of 2013 he was asked by the lululemon board to return to help handle a crisis that occurred while he was away and position the company towards longer-term corporate objectives. Since Mr. Wilson’s return, he has worked tirelessly to instill a brand/product focus that required significant management and board changes.
Chip Wilson stated: “Upon returning from Australia, I saw that the company had lost its way and was driven by the wrong values. Trying to affect a fundamental shift in direction is hard and I had to raise a strong voice to make myself heard while taking decisive action to implement change. I am happy to say that I now believe the company has returned to the core values that made it great — product, brand and culture — and is back on track.”
Since returning from Australia, Mr. Wilson has been a catalyst to initiate the transition of lululemon’s senior management. In connection with the 2014 share transaction completed by Mr. Wilson, Mr. Wilson reconstituted the board with the addition of two new members and secured a commitment from lululemon that it would undertake a corporate governance review. The impact of these measures has been seen in the increase in lululemon’s share price from a low of $US36.26 in June 2014 to its current share price — a change in market capitalisation of over $US4 billion.
Mr. Wilson concluded: “I have achieved the goals I set when I came back, and after careful thought, I believe that now is the right time to step away from the board. I leave behind a new and talented management team and new board construct. By stepping away from lululemon I will now have more opportunity to work with my wife and son as they grow their new business, Kit & Ace. I am so excited for Kit & Ace because it is where street clothing is going. Shannon and JJ have caught the next wave.” Founded in 2014, Kit & Ace produces Technical Luxury™ products by using Technical Cashmere™ blends.
Mr. Wilson has a legacy of entrepreneurship and working with companies at the start-up phase. Before founding lululemon in 1998, he was the founder of snowboard, surf, and skate apparel company Westbeach, which he ultimately sold.
Mr. Wilson will also continue to pursue his other ventures including establishing Vancouver as a center for excellence in technical apparel through the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen University, pursuing real estate investments to enhance Vancouver, and spearheading a push toward bringing quality education to all Ethiopians funded free from foreign aid by 2030 through a non-profit Imagine1Day.
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