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Another Billabong executive departs

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  • Karen Sarver at Agenda in January. Photo by Shop-eat-surf.

Karen Sarver, the right hand woman to Billabong Americas President Paul Naude for more than a decade, resigned Wednesday, I have confirmed.

Karen worked at Billabong for nearly 14.5 years. She previously worked with Paul at his sourcing company, and joined him at Billabong when he took over the U.S. division.

I reached Karen by phone this morning and she confirmed the resignation. Karen said, “The company morale has never been lower, and the environment is toxic.”

Karen's role was VP of Administration. She managed the buildouts for retail stores, in store merchandising programs for wholesale and retail channels, trade show planning for all the brands, sales meetings, travel and expenses.

She was also very involved with anything Paul was working on, and managed all the emails and correspondence for the computer-shy Paul.

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Those who knew how the Billabong Americas division worked knew that Karen was one of the most powerful executives at the division.

Billabong employees around the world have been in a state of uncertainty as the ongoing sales talks have dragged on, and the company’s financial struggles have deepened.

On Monday, several Billabong executives were let go, and I understand that more restructuring is on the way as the company moves to cut costs. The new corporate leadership team had not been able to make too many changes when sales discussions were ongoing, but now that those change of control talks have ended without a deal, more action is taking place.

I am increasingly hearing about a schism at Billabong in the Americas between those that are extremely unhappy with the new leadership team and long for Paul's return, and those that have welcomed some of the changes and the new leadership.

Corporate leaders at Billabong in Australia said this week that they plan to wrap up talks quickly regarding asset sales and refinancing of the company’s substantial debt.

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Analysts have said that Billabong needs to turn to alternate refinancing because traditional banks will likely not offer new financing because of Billabong’s uncertain financial state.

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