Lululemon Athletica inc. Gets Breathing Room As Founder Sells Half Stake

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According to Bloomberg, Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL) founder Chip Wilson has sold half his stake in the clothes retailer to Advent International Corp. for $845 million, as well as agree to not pursue a buyout for at least a year. Wilson’s decision ends (at least for a year) his nasty public spat with the BoD of the company.

Wilson’s dissatisfaction with Lululemon

Wilson had been vocal regarding his dissatisfaction with the firm’s direction after stepping down as chairman, and had been maneuvering to retake control. He had argued that the firm was becoming too worried about short-term results, and that the plans for the company were not focused enough on the products, company culture, brand and long-term goals.

As part of the deal announced on Thursday, July 7th, Wilson also agreed with Advent to name David Mussafer and Steve Collins to the board of directors of the company. The half of his stake Wilson sold represents about 13.9% of the shares of the total float of Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL).

The two new directors are scheduled to join the Lululemon Atletica board when Wilson’s sale is finalized, expanding the BoD from to 12 members.

Sterne Agee analysis of Lululemon

Equity research boutique Sterne Agee published a Flash Note on Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL) on Friday, August 8th, reiterating their Neutral rating on the equity, and explaining their two major concerns about Lululemon as an investment. First, Chip Wilson is still on the board and that means lack of unity; second, they do not believe that new CEO Laurent Potdevin is the right man for the job at hand.

The Sterne Agee analysts summarize their point of view: “However, after numerous industry checks, we do not believe that Laurent Potdevin is the right person to fix the problems “under the hood” and return the company to its prior prominence. It appears to us that LULU has already ceded many of its customers to many other brands and retailers such as Athleta (GPS-$40.20-Buy), Under Armour (UA-$67.74-Buy), Nike (NKE- $76.35-Buy), Lorna Jane, and others. It is very difficult to regain customers once they have left the fold.”

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