Lululemon (LULU) founder Dennis “Chip” Wilson is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the man who founded the yoga pants retailer has been berated by the public for comments he's made about Lululemon customers and board members. Thus, in an effort to patch his tense relationship with Lululemon's board of directors, and shareholders, Wilson agreed to sell roughly half of his 28% stake in the company.
A private equity firm, Advent International, purchased the shares for $42/share (roughly a $3.20 premium to Lululemon's current share price). The deal will increase the size of the board of directors by two, from 10 to 12; Advent International will appoint the two additional members.
Wilson's loudmouth antics have hurt Lululemon's share price on multiple occasions. Therefore, shareholders have pressured Wilson to explore buyout options. Wilson’s first public incident occurred when he agreed to do a live Bloomberg TV interview, last November. During the interview, Wilson hinted that Lululemon products should only be worn by women who posses a certain body figure: he then contested that his company's products were not suitable for heavyset women. Furthermore, Wilson created investor angst when he publically opposed the election of two Lululemon board members, including its Chairman. The debacle peaked when both men, despite Wilson's objections, were successfully re-elected by shareholders.
As the situation grew increasingly volatile, Wilson explored buyout options that would maintain the structural integrity of his company. Advent International offered Wilson the best solution, in which it bought 13.85% of Wilson’s 27.7% Lululemon stake for roughly $845 million.
Advent will bring experience and guidance to a company whose share price has dropped almost 47% over the past year, which was partially influenced by a year-old report claiming the company was selling “transparent” yoga pants. Lululemon representatives also admitted that its product quality had recently dipped, but that Lululemon was actively working to increase product quality standards.
Although selling 20.24 million shares will decrease Wilson’s internal influence, it may also revive, and save, Lululemon. Given the company has witnessed multiple rough patches, this is the right step towards recovery. Lululemon has undoubtedly been hurt by Wilson’s comments, and it's finally time for him to leave the public limelight. Lululemon must now rely on the guidance of Advent International, and the vision of its board, to be successful.