Chip Wilson quits Lululemon board, says he’ll help wife, son’s new venture

TORONTO — The founder of Lululemon Athletica Inc. is stepping down from the company’s board and turning his attention to growing his family’s newest venture, a clothing company founded by his wife and son.

Dennis (Chip) Wilson started Lululemon in 1998 in Vancouver after taking a yoga class and helped turn it into an international brand, with more than 250 stores.

However, he had been at odds with the Lululemon board after resigning as chairman in 2013 and tried unsuccessfully tried to oust two directors from the board last year, saying they were not focused enough on product innovation.

James Courtovich, a spokesman for Wilson, said the founder’s frustration with the board stemmed from their refusal to adopt a new fabric his wife had created which she calls “Technical Cashmere.”

Wilson offered the fabric to Lululemon three times, but each time the board rejected it, Courtovich said. That spurred Wilson’s wife and son to start a new clothing company called Kit & Ace, which uses the fabric.

Wilson said in a statement Monday that stepping down from Lululemon’s board will give him more opportunity to grow that venture, which has five stores in Canada and two in the United States.

“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,” Wilson said.

Before launching Lululemon (Nasdaq:LULU) he founded Westbeach, a snowboard, surf and skate apparel company he later sold.

Lululemon has faced controversy in recent years, including a massive recall of its black Luon pants due to a problem with the sheerness of the material which made the pants see-through at times.

Wilson had left Lululemon in 2012 to take a sabbatical in Australia, before the product gaffe. He says he was asked by the board to return in the spring of 2013.

He upset customers when he said the reason that some of were having issues with too-sheer pants was because they were buying sizes that are too small. He stepped down as chairman following the incident, but remained on the board.

Wilson sold half his stake in the yoga-wear retailer last year to private equity firm Advent International which paid US$845 million for the roughly 14 per cent stake in the company. Advent had previously invested in Lululemon, but sold its original investment in 2009.

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