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YSC Consulting comments on Superdry CEO return

This week, Julian Dunkerton, the co-founder and previous CEO of Superdry, was reinstated to the board of the UK clothing brand against the wishes of its other board members – many of whom have resigned in response, causing the company’s shares to plumet. Instead, it was a majority of the shareholders who voted to re-elect Dunkerton, who left the company in 2014 following several profit warnings during the latter stages of his reign.

Sam Gilpin, managing director, head of Europe at leadership consultancy firm YSC Consulting, has made the following comments in regards to Dunkerton’s return and the future outlook of his leadership:

“Julian Dunkerton’s sensational return to the helm of Superdry speaks to the intimate relationship between successful companies and their founders, both financially and psychologically. It also speaks to the differences between entrepreneurial founders, who typically feel a close personal connection to their customers, and professional managers, who often bring greater rigour and discipline but lack as sharp an instinct for value creation. There is no denying that the business has taken a financial hit following Dunkerton’s decision to step back as CEO four years ago and then to leave the company completely a year ago. The shareholders that helped secure his ‘putsch,’ as well as the founder himself, are surely hoping that his close links with the organisation, and especially its brand, will help turn its fate around and secure a recovery on their investments.

“In the end, the story of the ‘Dunkerton putsch’ will be viewed differently depending on the direction the company will take in the coming years and the leadership style adopted by Dunkerton once the fallout from the recent drama has settled. Sometimes being away from a role can heighten a CEO’s commitment, energy and perspective, but often the success of a returning founder hinges on the extent to which they have matured as a leader during their absence. Will he simply try and emulate past successes, and as a result struggle in today’s hyper-digital and highly-squeezed retail market? Or will he and his returning co-founder James Holder be sufficiently open-minded and flexible to reinvent the spirit of the brand in order to connect with a new generation of consumers? This is one corporate saga which will be well worth following.”

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