Puma Names Pandora’s Gulden as Chief After Four-Month Search

Puma SE, Europe’s second-largest sporting-goods maker, appointed Pandora A/S leader Bjoern Gulden as chief executive officer after a four-month search.

Gulden, 47, will take over the role on July 1, succeeding Franz Koch, who left last month after only two years in the job. The appointment follows speculation in February that led Pandora to deny that Gulden would be leaving the company.

The new CEO, a former soccer professional, has “proven leadership quality and know-how in managing sports and footwear brands,” Jean-Francois Palus, chairman of Puma’s administrative board, said in a statement today. “I am absolutely convinced that Bjoern Gulden is the perfect fit to lead Puma through its continuing restructuring and transformation program.”

The appointment helps fill a management vacuum at Puma after the departure of three senior executives in the past six months. Chief Supply Officer Reiner Seiz quit in December, a day after the disclosure that Koch was leaving. Chairman Jochen Zeitz resigned in October and was replaced by Palus, managing director of Puma’s majority owner Kering, formerly PPR SA.

“When you have a company where 50 percent plus of the top management has left, it’s always positive to find a new CEO,” said Joerg Frey, an analyst at M.M. Warburg in Hamburg.

Cost Reductions

Puma announced in October that it expected earnings this year to be “significantly below” those of 2011 as consumers cut back on spending in the wake of Europe’s financial crisis. The company plans more cost reductions to combat a weakening consumer climate in Europe and China, it said at the time.

Puma rose as much as 1.1 percent to 230.45 euros in Frankfurt trading and was up 0.3 percent at 11:09 a.m.

Pandora, based in Glostrup, Denmark, said that Chairman Allan Leighton will succeed Gulden as CEO on July 1, with deputy chairman Marcello Bottoli becoming chairman. The jewelry maker said its board of directors will recommend that Gulden, who only joined Pandora in March last year, becomes a board member.

Pandora spokesman Jakob Risom Langelund said reports earlier this year of Gulden’s appointment by Puma, which were denied by the CEO, were untrue at the time.

Pandora fell as much as 6.8 percent to 164.1 kroner in Copenhagen trading and was down 5 percent at 11:08 a.m. The shares had surged 41 percent this year before today after the maker of charms and bracelets improved quarterly profit by cutting prices and replacing unwanted products at retailers.

‘No Catastrophe’

Gulden’s departure from Pandora isn’t a big surprise, said Jonas Guldborg Hansen, an analyst at Jyske Bank A/S.

“It is no catastrophe and I think Allan Leighton is a very good solution as he has been a driving part in this turnaround,” Hansen said. “And Bottoli has been the founding father, so to speak, for this strategy.”

Leighton, 60, joined Pandora’s board in 2010. He is a former chairman of Royal Mail Group Ltd. and was previously CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda supermarket chain in U.K.

“Leighton is a definite solution, he has made a long-term commitment to this company,” Langelund said.

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