Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lululemon: How Much "Discretion" Should a CEO Exercise?

This week Lululemon CEO Christine Day announced that she would be stepping down.   Her resignation comes just three months after the substantial product recall of yoga pants that led to the departure of the firm's Chief Product Officer.   On the day of Day's surprising announcement, Lululemon shares fell 17%.  Investors wondered if other bad news might be coming from the company that has been a terrific growth story over the past several years.  Day chose not to discuss the detailed reasons for her departure.  She told Fortune, "There is no difference in strategic vision for the company, we were and are aligned... My values include discretion. While I know everyone would like to know 'the reason' [I'm leaving] there are some things that should remain private because the truth is the good things outweighed the bad and by being respectful and grateful one can remember that."  

I find this incident very interesting.  It raises some difficult questions regarding the responsibilities of a public company CEO.   While I respect Day's right to privacy, I can't help but look at that stunning 17% drop in the firm's shares.  Do the shareholders deserve more information?  Does Day have a responsibility to disclose more information about her departure so as to prevent such a drop in the firm's shares?   It's hard to say, of course, given that we don't know the reasons.   However, it seems clear that investors were spooked by the surprise departure.   Investors simply do not like being left in the dark. 

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