Lululemon, plagued with rogue CEOs, opts for a safe choice

By Elizabeth Segran

July 24, 2018

Lululemon has a new CEO.

Calvin McDonald comes to the activewear giant from Sephora, where he has been president and CEO of the Americas. Sephora has been thriving over the last few of years, thanks to creating immersive in-store experiences coupled with an exciting website full of educational content. McDonald, who has overseen this growth, is a safe choice for Lululemon, which has not had the best of luck with its last two CEOs.

McDonald replaced Laurent Potdevin, who came on board in 2014, but was ousted earlier this year for reasons that the company did not disclose. CNBC reported that one reason for his departure was that he had a relationship with one of his designers. Employees also spoke of a toxic culture at the company, which was exacerbated by Potdevin’s lack of leadership.

Before Potdevin, the company was run by Chip Wilson, who founded the company 20 years ago. Wilson is credited for helping to create the athleisure trend and growing Lululemon into a global powerhouse brand. But Wilson also harmed the brand at several points. In an infamous television appearance, he once said that the reason the brand’s yoga pants wore out was that women’s bodies were too big for his products, which caused widespread outrage. “Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it,” Wilson said in the interview. “. . . it’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

With McDonald at the helm, Lululemon has a chance to spend more time creating great products and retail experiences, and less time responding to awkward questions about the CEO’s behavior.