Inman misses target as she exits Billabong
- 18 July, 2013 09:36
When Launa Inman took the helm of troubled surfwear brand Billabong in May last year, the board hoped her considerable retail experience would stand them in good stead.
But as she departs 14 months later, the company's value has shrunk by 82 per cent - more than $700 million - and its future remains uncertain.
Ms Inman was hired by Billabong as a consultant in early 2012, soon after ending her seven years as head of Target Australia.
Just three months later, she was appointed chief executive, and vowed to transform the company to deal with its mounting debt and waning retail performance.
"All I can do is make sure that we go forward with a transformation strategy and if we're able to deliver what we say we're going to, then it will be seen in the share price," she said in October.
Billabong's troubles pre-dated Inman's tenure, with the board in February 2012 rejecting two takeover offers from US private equity firm TPG, the second offer worth $854 million.
A month after taking the top job, Inman presided over a $225 million capital raising to reduce its debts, but it also wiped one-third off Billabong's share price.
Still, TPG returned with a new $695 million takeover offer, which Billabong again rejected.
VF Corporation, the consortium behind the Timberland outdoor clothing brand, also lost interest.
Billabong took another hit in June this year when two more US private equity firms - Sycamore and Altamont - withdrew their takeover bids.
The news coincided with yet another earnings downgrade from Billabong.
Investors pulled out of the company, reducing its market value to just over $100 million.
A refinancing deal has now been struck with Altamont, which requires the resignation of Ms Inman.
CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy says she was only ever going to be a "caretaker" leader.
"I don't think that reflects ill or well on her," he said.
"She took on a difficult job at a difficult time. She's been credible."
Shareholders aligned with founder Gordon Merchant may have also been too sentimental during the many takeover opportunities.
"Their faith in the brand of Billabong was never rattled despite some pretty clear evidence in their bottom line that it was waning," Mr McCarthy said.
Ms Inman is to be replaced by Scott Olivet, the former chairman and chief executive of sportswear brand Oakley.
Even if the refinancing solves the company's debt issues, Mr Olivet faces a mammoth challenge improving its retail performance.
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