Is exaggerating a way of life at Lululemon (LULU)?
The Vancouver, B.C.-based company was first hit with questions about whether it had a penchant toward exaggerating when the New York Times questioned the therapeutic benefits and alleged seaweed content of some of its yoga clothes. Lululemon fired back, insisting the seaweed content is true, but removed tags from clothes claiming the therapeutic benefits while the situation is reviewed.
Meanwhile, it appears that Chief Executive Bob Meers may have exaggerated a bit about his job history in SEC filings and on the companys website. According to his official Lululemon resume, he was employed by Reebok International from 1984 through 1999. (That's true.)
However, the resume also says he was president and chief executive officer of the Reebok brand from 1996 until 1999 (not quite true) and that he had also been the president of the Rockport shoe and Greg Norman sportswear brands (not true.)
The truth is that from February 1994 until October 1995 he was President of Reebok's Specialty Business Group, which included Rockport and Greg Norman, according to Reebok's SEC filings. Rockport and Greg Norman had their own presidents.
While running the group job may be a notch higher in the corporate bureaucracy, it's not the same as running those businesses and claiming to have done so is, well, an exaggeration. And it was never part of Meers bio as CEO of Syratech, which filed for bankruptcy in 2005. His only role directly at Rockport, according to Reebok filings, was as senior vice president of sales from December 1988 to July 1990.
As for claiming to have been chief executive and president of the Reebok brand from 1996 until 1999: Actually, according to Rockport filings, Meers lost the chief executive title in July of 1998; two months later, he was replaced as president.
A letter to Meers from Reebok International CEO Paul Fireman, dated July 14, 1998 included as an amendment to the company's third quarter 10-Q suggests that he was demoted to a special assignments role until his contract was to end on December 31, 1999.
What does Meers have to say? No idea because he and the company have gone out of their way to duck my questions. I started calling about the resume and a few other issues on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at first going through an outside public relations representative whose name was on a press release with the companys response to the New York Times story. At the time, the PR rep said he couldn't get any answers about the resume questions.
He told me Monday I should contact Lululemon directly. I emailed a Lululemon spokeswoman, who responded late Monday saying that she thought the outside PR firm had answered my questions. In two subsequent emails (I tried calling but it kept going to voicemail) I asked whether Meers resume was correct.
That was Monday. I still haven't heard back. I even left a message yesterday with venture capitalist and Staples (SPLS) founder Tom Stemberg; no dice. Maybe Meers will address his resume on Thursday, when Lululemon announces earnings. Then again, given the amount of ducking he is doing, maybe not.