Ralph Lauren CEO Stefan Larsson quits over creative direction dispute with founder

Ralph Lauren Corp. announced that Chief Executive Officer Stefan Larsson will be leaving after a creative clash with the fashion brand’s founder, sending shares of the struggling company into a downward spiral.

Larsson, who previously ran Gap Inc.’s Old Navy, will be departing Ralph Lauren on May 1 after less than two years on the job, the company said on Thursday. Larsson will get $10 million in cash severance and health benefits over the next two years.

The surprise split followed discord about how to reinvigorate the 50-year-old brand, which was a standard bearer for preppy style in the ’80s and ’90s. In recent years, the company has suffered from heavy discounting and an overreliance on the beleaguered department-store industry. It also has an aging customer base and no clear way to appeal to more millennial shoppers.

Ralph Lauren, 77, said he and Larsson ultimately couldn’t agree on the creative direction to take the business.

“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,” Lauren said in the statement. “After many conversations with one another, and our board of directors, we have agreed to part ways.”

“The board and I are committed to the execution of the Way Forward Plan and continuing to move our business and iconic brand forward,” Lauren said.

Stefan Larsson and Ralph Lauren