The Billabong Board of Directors replaced longtime Billabong top executive Derek O'Neill today with a retail expert. The board said Derek is leaving the company today after 20 years with the company.
His replacement, Launa Inman, formerly head of Target in Australia, starts May 14.
Derek O'Neill served as CEO since 2003. He had previous top management jobs with Billabong including leading European operations as general manager from 1992 to 2003.
Under his leadership as CEO, Billabong embarked on a rapid expansion acquiring several brands and retailers and transforming itself into a company with a large retail presence with 677 stores at the end of the December.
During his watch, Billabong purchased several top brands including RVCA, Nixon, Xcel, and Sector 9, and bought troubled retailer West 49. He also made a big online retail push with acquisitions of Swell.com in the U.S. and Surfstitch.com in Australia.
For the six months ended in December, retail sales accounted for 44% of total sales during the period, according to Billabong.
Derek spoke repeatedly about his belief in Billabong's expanded retail strategy, and is now being replaced by someone with more retail experience.
Just after Billabong acquired several retailers, economic conditions took an unexpected downward turn in Australia and the normally stable European business grew more challenging due to the debt crisis and economic uncertainity in Europe.
Billabong, which is one of the largest apparel and retail companies in Australia, is watched very closely there and Billabong's stock has been under pressure and its debt load questioned.
The company recently fought off an unsolicited takeover bid by a U.S. private equity firm and sold more than 50% of Nixon for $285 million to pay down debt.
Billabong also announced that North America President Paul Naude, who is close to Derek, will remain on the board and will take on oversight of South America. His title will now be President of Americas with responsiblity for South America, the U.S. and Canada.
New CEO Inman was first brought on as a consultant two months ago to review Billabong's retail operations.
See Page 2 for the official press release: