Months-long standoff between Lululemon Athletica, Inc. (LULU - Analyst Report) and its founder Denis J. Wilson over taking control of the premium yoga-inspired apparel retailer’s board has finally come to an end after the later entered into a stake selling agreement with Advent International.
As per the agreement, Mr. Wilson will sell half of his current 27.7% stake in the company, or nearly 13.85% of the company’s outstanding shares to Advent for a sum of $845 million. The company’s board has appreciated Mr. Wilson’s move and has fully supported the transaction.
Furthermore, Mr. Wilson, Advent and Lululemon entered into a combined agreement which authorizes Advent to appoint David M. Mussafer and Steven J. Collins in Lululemon’s board of directors effective from the date of completion of stake sell. This will increase the number of members in Lululemon’s board to 12 from 10.
Apart from this, Mr. Wilson and Advent have also agreed not to fight for a proxy contest until the 2016 annual general meeting. The measure has been taken to prevent both of them from taking or supporting any kind of hostile step toward takeover of the company.
Founded in 1984, Boston-based Advent International has now become one of the world’s largest and experienced private equity investors. The private equity firm had previously invested in the company in 2005 till 2009, when it fully exited from its original investment. Between these periods, Lululemon witnessed tremendous growth and became a globally recognized premium yoga-apparel brand from a regionally focused brand.
Mr. Mussafer and Mr. Collins have past working experience with Lululemon, as both were board members during Advent’s previous involvement with the company. Mr. Mussafer, who is currently the Managing Partner in Advent will join Lululemon’s board as Co-Chairman. On the other hand, the current Managing Director at Advent, Mr. Collins will act on the board’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee.
As the standoff between the company and its founder reached to an end and its agreement with Advent came to light, positive sentiments spread across the market, with hopes that the company will soon be back on growth trajectory. The shares of this yoga-sportswear maker jumped over 6% during the after-hours trading session.
Lululemon has been in troubled waters since Mar 2013 when the company was forced to recall its Black Luon yoga pants and crops from its stores and e-Commerce site due to quality-related issues. This created a lot of buzz in the press, which, coupled with controversial comments from Lululemon’s founder, that offended many of its women customers, led to lower traffic trends in the company’s stores till so far, thus impacting the overall company results.
This was the time when the spat between the founder and the Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell) yoga-related apparel retailer started. However, Mr. Wilson stepped down from the post of chairman in Dec 2013 and apologized for his offending remarks.
Recently, in June this year, Mr. Wilson blamed Lululemon’s current Chairman and other board members for focusing too much on short-term issues and therefore losing their sight for long-term targets. This further ignited tensions between the two and raised concern that Mr. Wilson may attempt to or support a hostile takeover of the company.
The recent development has discarded all the speculations that say the beleaguered yoga-apparel retailer may potentially be a takeover target in the apparel retail industry, given the drastic decline in share price and the ongoing troubles in its operations. Lululemon would have probably fallen prey to the acquisition aspirations of giant sports-related apparel retailers like Nike Inc. (NKE - Analyst Report), V.F. Corp. (VFC - Analyst Report) and Columbia Sportswear Co. (COLM - Snapshot Report), all of which are looking for opportunities to expand into the yoga product line.
While the troubles for Lululemon seem to be getting closer to the finish line with the recent development, we would like to see a meaningful impact of these developments on the company’s operating performance.