‘Ottawa’ Lululemon’s Most Enigmatic Board Member, Rhoda Pitcher, Has Stepped Down
TORONTO — Lululemon’s “mysterious” and longest-serving board member has resigned as a director of the sportswear apparel company just weeks after media reports began questioning her very existence.
Rhoda Pitcher, who had served on the board as a director since 2005, resigned on Aug. 3 “to pursue other opportunities,” the Vancouver-based company revealed in an SEC filing on Tuesday. “Her resignation is not due to any disagreements with us on any of our operations, policies or practices.”
Pitcher’s name began circulating in the weeks after Lululemon founder and shareholder Chip Wilson voiced his most recent grievances in early June with the retailer’s board of directors. Wilson, who stepped down from the board last year but remains its largest shareholder, argued the company had “lost its way” and was ceding ground to rivals Nike and Under Armour.
“I am uncomfortable with the lack of urgency, stewardship and performance of our great company,” Wilson wrote in an open letter to shareholders at the time. “I have not heard a strategy nor seen actions that lead me to believe we will regain our competitive position and secure long-term returns.”
After his missive, TheStreet.com began looking at the retailer’s board members and discovered that Pitcher had virtually no social media profile and questioned her educational credentials, dubbing her a “mystery.”
It found that her business, Rhoda M. Pitcher Inc., had no web presence or verifiable clients, and while she apparently held a master’s degree from “University Associates, the institution was not included in the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited institutions and its street address was linked to a house in Tuscon, Ariz.
Failing to track Pitcher down, the report posed the tongue-in-cheek question, “Is Lululemon board member Rhoda Pitcher for real?” while the retailer’s external public relations firm said it did not have information on hand about two unidentified consulting firms with an apparent past connection to Pitcher.
Pitcher did appear to be real enough, in the financial sense — as a member of the board since 2005 she has earned US$1.59 million in compensation over the years, including US$217,257 last year.
A Fortune story from 2013 also revealed that Pitcher made the initial introduction between Wilson and former chief executive Christine Day, who ran the company through five years of precipitous growth from 2008 to 2013.
“Rhoda has been a strong and committed member of the Lululemon board and has served on the compensation and nominating and governance committees during her long and valued tenure,” Lululemon directors Michael Casey and David Mussafer said in a statement on behalf of the company’s board Tuesday, when asked for comment.
“The board would like to thank Rhoda for her valuable service over the past decade in advocating for the well-being of our people, and for her leadership in helping to shape the incredible roster of leaders we have in place today.”
It’s possible that the low-profile Pitcher — later revealed by TheStreet.com to be Calgary native Rhoda Hashman, who married U.S. businessman Charles A. Pitcher in 1989 — just got fed up with all of the attention.
Lululemon has added four directors in the last two years. With Pitcher’s departure, the board now has nine members.