Ralph Lauren will step down as CEO of the eponymous Ralph Lauren Corporation in November, 48 years after he established the iconic brand. Stefan Larsson, global president of retail major Gap's Old Navy brand, will succeed Lauren as the embattled company looks for a financial turnaround.
Lauren, in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, said he would continue to have a seat on the company's board and will retain the roles of executive chairman and chief creative officer. "I'm excited about my business, and I'm not leaving. It's a public company, and we have a responsibility to have the right leadership," he said. Lauren will also remain the single largest shareholder in the company with voting power of more than 81% of the common stock.
Larsson has previously held top jobs at other fashion retail brands such as H&M and most recently Gap's Old Navy. He is credited with turning around numbers for these brands and is expected to do something similar with Ralph Lauren-associated brands as they struggle against greater luxury-level competition. Shares of Ralph Lauren Corporation (RL) have fallen about 44% as per 29 September's (Tuesday's) close, erasing nearly $5bn (£3.29bn, €4.45bn) in market value. Net revenue in the first quarter this year ending 27 June fell 5% for the company mainly due to currency fluctuations.
The decision to appoint an outsider did come as a surprise to many, even though some investors expected Lauren's son, David, an executive vice president at the company to be a potential successor. The fashion empire established by Lauren includes roughly 25 brands including Polo, Club Monaco and Denim & Supply. The company also makes clothing, accessories, furniture, home decor items and footwear under its labels.
Lauren's success story is nothing short of brilliant for a man who went from selling wide-neck ties for Bloomingdale's to establishing the most valued men's wear company in the world. His designs have been worn by the elite all over the world from presidents, to movie stars to sport stars. Lauren's personal net worth according to Forbes was estimated at $6bn (£3.95bn, €5.34bn) for 2015 making him the 74th richest individual in the world.