Lululemon founder Chip Wilson steps down from board of directors
Wilson says Vancouver-based company is now 'back on track'
Chip Wilson, the founder of yoga-wear manufacturer Lululemon, is stepping down from the company's board of directors.
Wilson says he believes the Vancouver-based company is back in gear after losing its way in recent years.
"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," said Wilson in a statement issued on Monday morning.
Wilson established the Canadian company in 1998 and oversaw its growth to more than 250 stores around the world. In 2012 he stepped down from his position as chief innovation and branding officer to take a sabbatical in Australia.
See-through pants controversy
But in the spring of 2013, he was called back by the board to take control of the company once again, after customers complained some of it yoga pants were see-through. The company was also facing other complaints about the quality of its clothing, including pilling, holes and seams coming apart.
"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," said the statement.
But Wilson himself became part of the controversy when he said the problem may lie with customers wearing unsuitable sizes, and by December 2013, he was forced to step down as chair.
In August 2014, Wilson agreed to sell about half of his shares in Lululemon to investment firm Advent International for $845 million. Advent received two seats on Lululemon's board, expanding to 12 members.
Wilson said he intends to step away from the operation of the company now and help his son and wife focus on their new streetwear clothing brand Kit & Ace.
"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."
Bridget Weishaar, equity analyst at Morningstar, says she thinks Wilson’s decision to step away from an active role is the right one at this time.
"He is better suited to a startup than what Lululemon is now, which is a bigger company with quality issues and technology issues,” she told CBC News.
Weishaar said Wilson has been an innovator and visionary but now his presence is working against the brand.
"He’s got a big personality and that’s something that helped the company early on It helped build the brand. It’s something identifiable but at this point, some of his comments have started to take away from the brand," she said.
With files from The Associated Press