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Ralph Lauren CEO quits after dispute over creative control

By Stephen Feller
Ralph Lauren CEO quits after dispute over creative control
The CEO of Ralph Lauren, Stefan Larsson, said during a conference call Thursday that he'll leave the company in May after he and the company's namesake founder, pictured in December 2016, had a dispute over creative control of the company as it restructures to fix sagging sales figures. File photo by Rune Hellestad/ UPI | License Photo

Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Although it's quarterly report beat Wall Street predictions, falling sales and a clash with the company's namesake founder, Ralph Lauren CEO Stefan Larsson said Thursday he is leaving the company he was hired to revive.

Larsson said Thursday during a conference call he was leaving the iconic company two years after joining because he and Lauren could not agree on how to run the creative parts of the business.

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Larsson will leave in May after what he called a mutual decision for him to depart because he could not get on the same page as Lauren, who gave up running the company day-to-day when Larsson was hired in order to focus on creative direction for the fashion company he founded 50 years ago.

"The board, Ralph and I have over the last month worked very hard to find common ground," Larsson said. "However, we have found that we have different views on how to evolve."

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Lauren, who was not on the conference call with Larsson, echoed the soon-to-be former CEO in a statement, saying that "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."

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The former Old Navy executive was brought on in November 2015 to fix the Ralph Lauren's problems, creating a plan that has included changing the company's supply chain, slashing costs, focusing on fewer brands, closing 50 retail stores and laying off about 8 percent the company's staff. While the company is in a better position than when he arrived, sales have not turned around.

Larsson reportedly told Lauren he needed creative control, or at least input, as well as the ability to hire and fire people on the creative side, which Lauren balked at. The two worked on finding common ground during the last month, involving the board in their dispute, but did not figure out how to see eye-to-eye.

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Lauren said he plans to continue pursuing the plan Larsson put into action, and the company has already started its search for a new CEO in advance of Larsson's departure.

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