Business

Lululemon founder sells half his shares

Lululemon Athletica Inc. founder and Chairman of the Board Chip Wilson smiles before speaking at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, B.C., on Friday December 7, 2012. Wilson has sold half his stake in the Vancouver-based yoga-wear company for US$845 million to private equity firm Advent International. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck -
Lululemon Athletica Inc. founder and Chairman of the Board Chip Wilson smiles before speaking at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, B.C., on Friday December 7, 2012. Wilson has sold half his stake in the Vancouver-based yoga-wear company for US$845 million to private equity firm Advent International. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
— image credit:

By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Chip Wilson, the founder and largest shareholder of Lululemon Athletica, has sold half his stake in the yoga-wear retailer for US$845 million.

The Vancouver-based company said Thursday the sale to private equity firm Advent International represents approximately 13.85 per cent of Lululemon's outstanding shares.

Once the deal is finalized, Wilson will still own 20.1 million Lululemon shares, with Advent owning the other 20.1 million shares. The private stock sale is expected to close within 30 to 60 days, and has full support of the company's board of directors.

The company said Advent had previously invested in Lulumon in 2005, and has worked with Wilson and half of the company's 10 board members in the past. It pulled its original investment out of Lululemon in 2009. This deal will result in the appointment of two Advent executives, managing partner David Mussafer and managing director Steven Collins, to Lululemon's board. Mussafer will take on the role as co-chairman.

"Advent is a strong partner that knows Lululemon and our culture and will be an incredibly helpful addition to the board as we build an even stronger company," Wilson in a statement.

"I am delighted with the addition of David and Steven as new Directors, both of whom are very familiar with our company and bring significant expertise. Lululemon is well positioned to successfully execute on its strategic goals, and I look forward to working alongside the entire Board and management team as we focus on leveraging our core values of product and innovation to enhance value for all shareholders."

Wilson has been at odds with the Lululemon board over the past year after resigning as chairman in December.

In June, he announced publicly that he was voting against the re-election of two returning directors, including his replacement, chairman Michael Casey and private equity executive RoAnn Costin. At the time, Wilson argued that he didn't think the two members aligned with the company's "core values of product and innovation.''

Lululemon has been struggling recently following a number of controversies and public relations gaffes. Late last year, the company had to deal with supply chain problems related to its Luon yoga pants, which were criticized for being too sheer. A few months later, Wilson said in a television interview that the tight-fitting pants were sheer because they did not fit all women's bodies. He later apologized for the comments.

The company is in the midst of an international expansion, in hopes of building its presence in Europe and Asia.

Its shares have been steadily sinking over the past year and are down by nearly 50 per cent from their 52-week high of US$77.75 on the Nasdaq in early October. The stock was closed down 94 cents to US$39.03 on the Nasdaq Thursday, prior to the announcement.

— By Linda Nguyen in Toronto.

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