Lycra Co. taps former Polartec chief Smith as new CEO
NEWARK – The Lycra Company, a major textile company that supplies the apparel and personal care industries, has turned to Gary Smith, a veteran textile executive, as its next CEO.
Headquartered off Red Mill Road near Newark, Smith will lead a company with legacy DuPont ties following a troubled period that saw new investors take ownership last year. The private company’s former parent investor, Hong Kong-based Ruyi Textile and Fashion International Group, defaulted on the loans related to its own acquisition of Lycra in 2019.
Well-known for the stretchy, form-fitting material that has become ubiquitous with yoga pants, Lycra is an offshoot of DuPont dating back to the ‘50s. The Delaware chemical and materials titan sold its Apparel & Advanced Textiles unit to Koch Industries in 2004 for $4.4 billion, the last time a public valuation of the company was made. Ruyi acquired Lycra from Koch subsidiary Invista in 2019 for a reported $2.6 billion.
The Lycra Company continues to heavily market its Lycra, Coolmax and Thermolite brands and holds over 800 patents that have helped it build long-standing strategic relationships with most leading producers, brands, and retailers.
Smith replaces acting CEO Dean Williams, who reportedly replaced former CEO Julien Born in August. Williams will now return to his role as chief financial officer and assist with the transition.
The new CEO comes to Lycra Company with more than 25 years of experience in the consumer products industry, with a focus on brand-driven commercial strategy, operational transformation and global expansion. He’s had experience in textiles while previously serving as president of the Outdoor Group at The Timberland Company and CEO of Polartec, a textile company that specializes in synthetic fleeces and has worked with leading brands like The North Face, Eddie Bauer, Patagonia, Nike, Adidas, and more.
Most recently, Smith led a successful turnaround and subsequent sale of Hatteras Yachts, a custom motor and sports fishing yacht company, as its CEO.
“Gary is a proven CEO with deep brand experience and knowledge of our industry, along with a long history of successfully growing companies and creating shareholder value,” Craig Rogerson, executive chairman of Lycra Company, said in a statement announcing the move. “We are confident that his leadership will help us accelerate our long-term growth plans.”
Smith will take over a global operation that includes a headquarters and research-and-development lab in Delaware, as well as manufacturing plants in Virginia and abroad in Northern Ireland, China and Singapore.
“I am excited to join The Lycra Company with its portfolio of world-class brands, pre-eminent market position, and history of innovation,” Smith said in a statement. “I look forward to leading this incredible organization and working collaboratively to build upon its foundational success.”
Outside of textiles, Smith is known to the cycling world as owner of Independent Fabrication (IF), a boutique custom bicycle manufacturer in New Hampshire. He first met the company while filming the CNN reality show “Turnaround,” where large company’s helped small companies manage operational challenges. He worked with the owners at IF during his tenure at Timberland, and later, when the small shop fell into financial difficulties, decided to buy it.