3 reasons Laurent Potdevin was the right choice for Lululemon CEO
At the end of an awkward year, Lululemon is shuffling its executive deck. The board of directors announced Monday that Laurent Potdevin will take over as CEO, replacing Christine Day, who is credited with growing the company into a $1.4 billion enterprise. Founder Dennis 'Chip' Wilson will also step aside as Chairman of the Board in June 2014, and Michael Casey, the Board's Lead Director will step up in his place. Wilson will keep a non-executive seat on the board, says The Wall Street Journal.
The changes follow a year of missteps for the company. In March, Lululemon recalled thousands of black yoga pants, after customers complained they could see through the company's signature Luon fabric — a snag that cost Lululemon tens of millions in revenue. The trouble continued when customers continued to complain that the pants were pilling, and came to a head in a November, when Wilson told Bloomberg TV, "Some women's bodies just don't actually work" for the pants. And, "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time." His comments drew predictable criticism from women's groups and bloggers, and a thrashing from Stephen Colbert.
Despite the tough year, Potdevin is taking over a relatively strong operation. Under Day's leadership, Lululemon quadrupled its revenue, and the stock price rose 380 percent. "Potdevin and Casey seem like two guys who will successfully execute the vision Day's been building during her tenure without dramatically altering the brand so many workout enthusiasts have come to love," says Fortune.
Here, three reasons Potdevin is the man for the job.
He gets the lifestyle
Potdevin's most recent post was president of TOMS, the shoe company credited with creating the One for One business model, for which it donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair it sells. Like TOMS, Lululemon is a feel-good lifestyle brand with a strong, ethical identity — even if its founder might have poisoned the good-will well.
Potdevin's also a yoga devotee who gets high-tech athletic gear. Before TOMS, Potdevin was president and CEO of Burton Snowboards, a company that sells high-tech snow boarding apparel. His familiarity with an athletic, do-gooder customer makes him a natural fit for Lululemon.
Despite this year's mess-ups, Lululemon is poised for global expansion. As of early August, it operates 226 stores in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Potdevin says he hopes to drive more international growth.
This is something he does well. At TOMS, Potdevin "built a world class management team, led global expansion, and broadened the company's strong cultural identity," says Marketwatch. And at Burton, he was credited with expanding the product categories and scaling internationally as well.
He knows how to work with founders
Eccentric, energetic entrepreneurs who are great at starting companies don't necessarily have the skill set to manage large public companies — a common problem for growing brands. Potdevin has made a career out of taking the reins from passionate founders who have clear brand vision. He worked with Jake Burton Carpenter at Burton, and later with TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie to take both those companies to the next level. "I've learned to work with founders and respect their vision," he told The Wall Street Journal.