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Rapha chief executive Simon Mottram to step down after 17 years

Business’s founder will remain “very close to the brand” and sit on its board, with ex-AllSaints CEO William Kim replacing him

Rapha chief executive Simon Mottram is to step down from the role 17 years after he founded the North London-based high-end clothing and accessories brand, although he will continue to sit on its board. He will hand over the reins to William Kim, former CEO of UK-based fashion retailer, AllSaints.

In an email sent to members of Rapha Cycling Club, among others, the 55 year old said that he would step down from the role in the new year, “but will remain very close to the brand. I will continue to serve on the Rapha Board of Directors and will continue to play a role as Founder.

“Just as importantly, I will continue to ride my bike with the same passion that led me to establish Rapha in the first place, as I worked to give cycling the inspiring and visionary force that it so richly deserved.

“As I step down, I will be handing over the leadership of the company to William Kim,” he continued. “William is a Korean American who has worked at amazing brands like Gucci, Burberry and AllSaints over the last three decades.

“This is clearly a very important step for me and for Rapha but I am convinced that it is the right time for me to step down and for Rapha to have a new CEO with the skills and experience to take advantage of the huge opportunity Rapha faces.

“William is equally as passionate as I am about the Rapha brand and our opportunity to inspire the world to live life by bike,” he added.

Mottram, who previously worked in brand consultancy, set up Rapha in 2004 and by the time it was sold in 2017 for a reported £200 million to an investment vehicle owned by Steaurt and Tom Walton, who are among the heirs to the Wal-Mart grocery fortune, it had annual sales of £63 million, 20 local websites worldwide selling clothing and accessories, plus 17 Clubhouses internationally.

Since its foundation, the brand has built up a loyal following around the world, reinforced by the Rapha Cycling Club whose more than 20,000 members regularly meet up for group rides and other activities in cities around the globe.

 In accounts for the year ended 31 January 2021 filed at Companies House earlier this year, parent company Carpegna limited revealed that sales had increased by nearly a third from £74 million to £98 million.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation stood at £13 million compared to a loss of £1 million the previous year, and the company’s operating loss narrowed from £21 million to £4 million.

“Online operations performed well during the COVID-19 pandemic with strong revenue growth and new customer acquisition,” the company said.

“Marketing operations focused on making the Rapha brand more visible and engaging to cyclists which combined with a steady stream of new product launches resulted in increased demand.

“There were also market forces to consider. Quieter roads and limited spending choices encouraged a significant number of consumers to take up cycling and purchase bikes during lockdown.

“Rapha Clubhouses globally were impacted during the year by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company continued.

“Government enforced closures and lockdowns resulted in stores being closed for varying periods of time,” it said (the London clubhouse, for example, was closed from March last year through April this year).

“This impacted revenue in the financial period although demand bounced back well as stores reopened. The Clubhouse channel contributed 16 per cent of total sales in the year,” the company added, compared to 24 per cent in the previous year, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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