Ralph Lauren CEO to leave after clashing with founder

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Stefan Larsson, chief executive of Ralph Lauren, is leaving after less than two years on the job after clashing with the company’s 77-year old founder over the future direction of the clothing empire.

Mr Larsson, will receive $10m in severance paid out in the form of a salary over the next two years and a search will be conducted for a replacement. Mr Lauren, said of the decision:

Stefan and I share a love and respect for the DNA of this great brand, and we both recognize the need to evolve. However, we have found that we have different views on how to evolve the creative and consumer-facing parts of the business. After many conversations with one another, and our Board of Directors, we have agreed to part ways.

Shares in Ralph Lauren slid as much as 10 per cent in pre-market trading following the news of Mr Larsson’s departure. He arrived at the retailer in November 2015 amid fanfare after driving a turnaround at Old Navy, Gap’s largest division and who previously helped fast fashion giant H&M.

Under Mr Larsson’s leadership Ralph Lauren has shuttered under-performing stores and its Denim & Supply line to focus on its core products in an attempt to revive its fortunes. It has also tried to increase its appeal to shoppers that love fast fashion retailers like Zara and H&M that offer catwalk looks at a fraction of the cost, with its “see now buy now” fashion show, that reduces the wait time between when clothing hits the runway and when it lands in stores.

Severance related payments associated with Mr Larsson’s departure and other charges tied to the company’s ‘Way Forward Plan’ announced last year are expected to result in revenues in the current quarter dropping in the mid-teens compared to a year ago. Net revenues for fiscal 2017 are expected to record a low-double digit decline as well.

The news accompanied a 5 per cent drop in same-store sales in the fiscal third quarter, as challenging traffic and changes in the average transaction size offset the benefit of a favourable timing shift that pulled post-Christmas week sales in to the third quarter.

Meanwhile, net revenue declined 12 per cent from a year ago to $1.78bn, in line with estimates. Profits slid to $82m or 98 cents a share, down from $131m or $1.54 a share in the year ago period. Adjusting for one-time items, earnings of $1.86 a share, topped analysts’ estimates of $1.64.

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