Ralph Lauren chief commercial officer resigns after investigation into personal conduct

FOX Business Flash top headlines for March 2

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Ralph Lauren's executive vice president and chief commercial officer Howard Smith will step down immediately following an investigation into allegations regarding his personal conduct. 

"Upon recently learning of allegations regarding Mr. Smith’s personal conduct, the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors promptly launched an independent investigation with the assistance of outside counsel," the company wrote in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Wednesday. "Because the investigation revealed conduct that violated the Company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics and other policies, the Board concluded that Mr. Smith’s resignation was necessary." 

Ralph Lauren’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer Howard Smith is stepping down from his role immediately following an investigation into his personal conduct.  (iStock)

The company, which declined to comment on specifics of the allegations, emphasized in its filing that Smith's resignation is unrelated to its financial reporting and business performance. Smith did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment.

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According to his LinkedIn page, Smith joined Ralph Lauren in 2002 as the vice president of logistics and operations for its European business. Smith went on to serve as a senior vice president for the company's supply chain operations for the Europe, Middle East and Africa, U.S. and Canada and China divisions, and president of the company's Japan, Asia Pacific and international businesses. 

PARIS, FRANCE – JULY 03: Ralph Lauren Europe President Howard Smith attends Vogue Foundation Dinner Photocall as part of Paris Fashion Week – Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018-2019 at Musee Galliera on July 3, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julien Hek (Julien Hekimian/Getty Images for Vogue / Getty Images)

As chief commercial officer, Smith oversaw the company's global go-to-market strategy for all brands and channels, inclusive of retail, wholesale and digital, as well as buying, planning and merchandise allocation worldwide. He also led the Lauren brand globally, according to his biography. 

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Though Smith is stepping down immediately, his resignation will be effective on April 2. Regional leaders who already oversee the day-to-day business will report on an interim basis directly to Ralph Lauren President and CEO Patrice Louvet. 

"We are saddened by this situation and recognize that this news will come as a surprise. Howard has contributed significantly to the evolution of our Company for the past 20 years, and we are grateful for that," Louvet and Ralph Lauren said in a memo to employees. "We have great confidence in our strong bench of leaders in every region who already oversee the day-to-day business. Together, we will continue to build on our momentum and realize the many opportunities ahead for our iconic brand."

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
RLRALPH LAUREN CORP.129.37+4.75+3.81%

Smith's resignation comes just days after Estée Lauder fired John Demsey, a senior executive who posted a meme on his personal Instagram account last week that contained a racial slur and a joke about COVID-19. Demsey, who served as the company's executive group president and oversaw some of its biggest brands including MAC and Clinique, had been with the company for 31 years.

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