What’s happening with Lululemon? Its founder is getting rich(er?)

If you don’t recall all the happenings with Lululemon, click here for on ongoing, occasionally reluctant coverage.

There’s some pretty big new news today, which can be summed up as: Founder Chip Wilson is rich. If he wasn’t already. Here’s the news via the New York Times:

Under the terms of the deal reached Thursday, Mr. Wilson, known as Chip, will sell half of his roughly 27 percent stake in the company to Advent International, a private equity firm, for $845 million. The retailer will also give Advent — which had previously invested in the company — two director seats, expanding the board to 12 members.

One of those new directors, an Advent managing partner, David Mussafer, will become co-chairman alongside the company’s current chairman, Michael Casey.

In return, Advent and Mr. Wilson have agreed not to wage a proxy fight for two years.

Pretty similar take is here from the LA Times.

Is anybody still buying Lululemon products?

Posted by Steve

The thighs have it: Lululemon founder quits as chairman

Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon and the guy responsible for the series of recent gaffes — fat thighs, etc. — is stepping down as chairman of the yoga clothes company, the company announced Tuesday.

In I’m sure totally related news, no one today was surprised by this.

The company also has appointed a new CEO. Laurent Potdevin takes over for Christine Davis, who announced her plans to leave in June — before Wilson’s latest stuff but after the initial Lululemon-gate — that being the too sheer pants fiasco.

According to reports, Potdevin comes from Toms Shoes, where he served as president. And before that he was at Burton Snowboards, including a stint as CEO from 2005 to 2010.

On top of all this, if you haven’t seen the little bits of news here and there, there does seem to be a growing push-back against the company by former “Ambassadors” — those yoga teachers who get free Lululemon schwag — who are renouncing their ties to the company over its “non yogic business practices.”

As far as I can tell, these un-Ambassadors’ reasons range from the legit — not being comfortable with the Randian philosophy of the company as well as the public actions of Wilson — to the fairly silly — thinking that a company won’t put profits ahead of everything else, or at least on equal standing as “civic good.”

It is a business, after all.

Now, we can watch and see how that business does under new leadership. Drawing someone in from Toms seems to make sense: Similar core customers, similar “do good” image that has taken hits on and off.

Posted by Steve

Stephen Colbert names Lululemon’s CEO his ‘Alpha Dog of the Week’

“Hear that ladies, divorce is your fault.”

And that’s actually among the least offensive things you’ll hear in video from Monday night’s the The Colbert Report.

So enjoy at this link. (WordPress fail on getting it to embed.)

It includes mention of the “heart-felt” statement we noted earlier.

Posted by Steve


What Lululemon allows image-conscious urban women to be

I don’t want to get too deep into the sheer (a pun, by the way) craziness that is the ongoing Lululemon story, but I came across this piece in the New Republic on the company’s founder, Chip Wilson, and it seems worth a read for a few reason:

  • It traces Wilson’s work history back to the oil fields of Alaska. Where every yoga company CEO begins.
  • It conflates Wilson and Whole Foods Market John Mackey and their shared love of Ayn Rand and libertarianism. I can’t help wondering if there is something that further conflates libertarianism and liberal business — particularly consumer business. Do old-fashioned liberals/progressives not have the John Galt spunk to create their own yoga clothing behemoth?
  • It ends with this line: “But perhaps most crucially of all to its business model, though, Lululemon has finally allowed image-conscious urban women to be full, unembarrassed participants in the true American dream—wearing sweatpants in public.”

Here’s a little more:

There is a boom market in ostentatious wellness these days, one that is underpinned by the same synthesis of seemingly opposite impulses—to achieve, and to bliss out—that drives Wilson. His customers are much more like him than many would care to admit. If you seek spiritual enlightenment through yoga and fasting, go to India or the 1960s. If you want to have the best-looking ass in line at Starbucks, try Lululemon’s free Saturday class and a pair of $82 Wunder Unders.

I think from that you can get the gist.

Perhaps as a palate / mind cleanser, I can offer David Garrigues’ latest:

Listening and feeling within involves a certain ‘heart donkey’ work in doing long periods of zen koan like, inward turning puzzle solving that takes the form of active thought and struggling for answers on how to progress. This effortful work alternates with suspending willful striving, receptivity, trust, and letting go enough for answers to arrive on their own. Largely Yoga is about the relationship I develop with my own mind, its entire range from brilliant to brutish. And as I struggle, sort through, let go, and clear my mind, then my connection to the Source can take the lead.

Is the Source the next gen Lululemon material? If it isn’t, it ought to be. (I’ll only take a small %, Mr. Wilson.)

Posted by Steve

If Lululemon’s Chip Wilson keeps digging himself deeper, will he get to Samadhi?

You know, we try to play things pretty straight here.

There’s probably some snark some times, and we have our opinions on the various heavy issues facing Ashtangis: playing music, practicing at night, injuries.

But we don’t try to lay that out too overtly. We think of ourselves more as conduits for news, with opinion sprinkled in — but often that opinion being yours.

This time, though. It’s hard not to say the obvious: Based on the below video “apology” for his recent statements about women wearing Lululemon pants, the company’s founder, Chip Wilson, is a total ass.

And I really want to use stronger language.

I say that because, if you deign to listen and watch, you’ll discover that he never actually apologies for what he did. Here’s what he says, via various online sites that have transcribed it:

“Hello, I’m Chip Wilson, I’m founder of Lululemon Athletica. I’d like to talk to you today about the last few days of media that’s occurred around the Bloomberg interview. I’m sad… I’m really sad. I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions. I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my actions. I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact it has had on you I’m sorry to have put you all through this.

For all of you that have made Lululemon what it is today, I ask you to stay in the conversation that is above fray. I ask you to prove that the culture that you have built can not be chipped away.”

Get that? He’s sad because people are upset, not because what he said was offensive and stupid. Sure, he takes “responsibility” and is sorry — but not for what he did. He’s sorry for putting you through this, instead of encouraging you to buy more Lululemon, one assumes.

It’s a classic non-apology, which typically really mean: What’s your problem for being upset about something? And it is more reason to avoid Lululemon, I fear. Even if you can’t destroy the items you have.

But, as I say in the headline: If he keeps digging, maybe he’ll get somewhere.

Posted by Steve

I can’t kill my Lululemon pants no matter what I do

That headline may seem like hyperbole, but it is what went through my mind last week when I was sorting my clean yoga clothes.

There, among non-branded shorts and T-shirts, like some sort of harsh rebuke, were one red T-shirt, a pair of shorts and a pair of pants. Both of those, of course, black.

This is Lululemon after all.

So, yes. I own a few. But, in my defense — we’ll get to why I again need to defend myself in a second — all were bought extremely early in the yoga practicing “career.” We’ve, Bobbie and I both, have moved on, far on, since then.

Here’s the thing. Those early Lululemon clothes? They’re nigh-on indestructible. And when you don’t wear them often — I pull them out either when everything else is dirty or, in the case of the pants, when I’m expecting the morning to be extra chilly — that nigh-on because nigh-on “entirely.” (As in “entirely indestructible,” from which any grammarian readers are sure to recoil.)

Now, the more recent Lululemon clothes? They might not be as hardy, as we all know. But, as I said in my defense, we don’t own any from later than 2009, probably.

Now, to needing to defend myself for owning any. We’ve got another Lululemon-gate:

Eight months after the company he founded had a big public relations problem because too much of some women’s backsides could be seen through its yoga pants, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson has put the story back in the news.

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” in Lululemon’s pants, Wilson said this week on Bloomberg Television’s Street Smart.

“It’s about the rubbing through the thighs,” he added, and “how much pressure is there.”

Asked by Bloomberg’s rather surprised looking Trish Regan if he’s saying that “not every woman can wear a Lululemon yoga pant,” Wilson recovered somewhat, saying, “No, I think they can, I just think it’s how you use them.”

And oh, is the Interweb having its fun with that. Rightfully so. I’ll let you find them, if you so desire.

But I bring things back to the, I hope, implicit question at the heart — the bitter, Randian heart, I guess — of this post: Do we have to toss out our perfectly good (and let’s face it, the early Lululemon stuff is better than “perfectly good”), but old, Lululemon wear?

As we always say: Ashtanga is hard. So is figuring out what to wear.

Posted by Steve