Lululemon founder Chip Wilson has always been an outspoken individual, and even if that trait has gotten him into trouble a couple of times, it hasn't changed since he left the company and its board last winter. While he may have since turned his attention to other projects like Kit & Ace (which is run by his wife and son), he remains Lululemon's largest shareholder and, clearly, very passionate about the activewear company's future.
Taking a page from Dov Charney's book, Wilson published an open letter Wednesday afternoon (timed with the end of a non-disparagement agreement) to voice everything he wanted to say about what Lululemon is doing wrong, after the company wouldn't let him say it during its annual shareholders' meeting.
On a new website called ElevateLululemon.com, he writes that the company has "lost its way" and is ceding market share to other companies like Under Armour and Nike, in a market that Lululemon "created." He went on to criticize the company's underperforming stock price, lack of profit growth (despite revenue growth) and the management team itself. "Do you plan to get back to our original leadership position compared to our competitors, in a market we invented and built? If yes, by when, and what are the exact signs, metrics and signals we should be looking for to indicate your plan is working?" he asks the board, in conclusion.
In a statement issued to BuzzFeed, Lululemon unsurprisingly disagreed with Wilson, saying that it has the right leadership team in place for sustainable growth. Indeed, the company has been posting solid revenue growth and appears to have bounced back from the public relations blunders for which Wilson himself was partially responsible.
The site also spoke to Wilson, who added some color to his critiques of Lululemon's management team, including pointing out its lack of women. He said that junior-level women whom he "developed" when he was CEO were not developed by his successor. "When we let go of the last CEO and her people under her, that team was filled by men, and I think it's really, really sad," he said. "Lululemon is missing a hell of an opportunity, because I think unless you are the market, you can't sell to the market.”
He has a point there, though Lululemon certainly isn't the only company with that issue.