By Colleen Leahey, reporter
FORTUNE -- Smoothing tums and bums since its founding in 2000, shapewear retailer Spanx has solved countless women's maddening fashion problems. Its core products help the lumpiest of stomachs fit smoothly beneath form-fitting ensembles -- and that simple but successful mission roots the company's expanding array of products. The company's four lines (Spanx, Star Power, Red Hot Label, and Assets) feature staples like toeless pantyhose -- as well as newer offerings such as menswear, dresses, denim leggings, and even hair ties. What's next for the famed brand? Maybe, just maybe, shoes.
On Monday, Spanx founder Sara Blakely announced that CEO Laurie Ann Goldman, who's been with the company since 2002, is stepping down. Goldman joined Spanx when there were just five employees, and her previous 10-year run at Coca-Cola (KO) taught her brand-building basics, which she used to grow Spanx into a multi-hundred-million-dollar hosiery empire. Her unexpected departure raises questions about an eventual IPO or differing strategies between her, Blakely, and the board.
Most interesting is the appointment of interim CEO Gregg Ribatt, whose expertise lies in footwear. His resume lists stints as EVP and COO at Bennett Footwear, CEO and president at Stuart Weitzman Holdings, and president and CEO of Collective Brands' Performance & Lifestyle Group, where he oversaw brands such as Sperry Topsider, Saucony, Stride Rite, and Keds.
In October, Blakely told Fortune her ultimate goal is to invent a "comfortable high heel, and then retire." Blakely's inventions are comfortable for Spanx customers on either physical or emotional levels. (Let's be honest, not all of those slimming undergarments feel amazing after a few hours -- but they sure do boost confidence.) Continuing down that path, no matter the product type, isn't so far-fetched for Blakely. "I was inspired to move into all categories of fashion eventually because there was so much opportunity to make things more comfortable, fit better, feel better," she said of starting Spanx. "I know [inventing a comfortable high heel] can be done. I always say we put a man on the moon, I know we can do this. So that is in the horizon. I'm very determined."
Ribatt knows how to build, scale, clean up, and sell brands; in 2012, Wolverine Worldwide (WWW) acquired PLG for $1.24 billion. Women's Wear Daily reported Tuesday that Ribatt will remain in Boston, rather than move to Spanx's Atlanta headquarters, and he'll help the board find a new CEO. Whether that new chief will have footwear experience to help Blakely's ultimate dream come true is TBD. (The company says Ribatt's experience is merely a coincidence, and he has advised Spanx for some time.) But I think I speak for all women -- everywhere, ever -- when I say that if Blakely can do for heels what she did for tights, we will all be eternally grateful.
Hear more from Blakely about starting Spanx, her relationship with former CEO Laurie Ann Goldman, and what's next for the company:
"I've learned that every time I go against my intuition, it's a mistake," says Tamara Mellon.
FORTUNE -- Famed shoemaker Jimmy Choo had the technical skills to build a beautiful heel, but co-founder Tamara Mellon honed the company's vision. Her savvy landed the shoes on countless celebrity feet and shows like Sex and the City, solidifying the stilettos' icon status. Since leaving Jimmy Choo in 2011 -- it was bought by MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jan 31, 2014 11:04 AM ET
While jetsetting around the world, entrepreneur Christiane Lemieux talks about being acquired by Wayfair and why she thinks everything happens for a reason.
FORTUNE -- Christiane Lemieux founded DwellStudio in 2000, hoping to create a line of home furnishings with a trendier vibe than traditional retailers like Pottery Barn (WSM). The company slowly gained a following, helping the designer-turned-entrepreneur catch the eye of Wayfair, which purchased DwellStudio for an undisclosed amount MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jan 16, 2014 3:53 PM ET
Sheila Marcelo on what she learned, who she admires, and what she regrets.
FORTUNE -- In 2006, Sheila Marcelo struggled to take care of two young children while she helped her father recover from a heart attack. Realizing she wasn't alone, she founded Care.com. The website helps connect parents, kids with elderly moms and dads, and pet owners with the appropriate care givers, making their lives drastically less stressful. Marcelo MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jan 9, 2014 12:22 PM ET
The Prudential Group Insurance president and COO learned a life lesson sitting on the bench for her college softball team.
FORTUNE -- Before joining Prudential Group Insurance (PRU) as president and Chief Operating Officer in June, Lori Fouché spent over 20 years at various prominent insurance firms such as Fireman's Fund (where she was president and CEO) and Chubb Specialty Insurance (CB). The Harvard MBA also played Division I softball while MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Dec 12, 2013 1:48 PM ET
Padmasree Warrior says leaders should have bold visions but an appreciation for the details -- and they also need to simplify complex situations in order to solve their core issues.
FORTUNE -- Cisco System's (CSCO) Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Padmasree Warrior may help the company navigate the competitive digital networking sector, but she also has her hands in the retail industry. In September, Warrior became a director at Gap Inc. MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Dec 5, 2013 11:59 AM ET
The pharmaceutical executive reflects on moments throughout her career.
FORTUNE -- Heather Bresch has been at the helm of pharmaceutical-maker Mylan (MYL) since 2012. During her time as the Fortune 500 company's CEO, she's overseen a $1.6 billion acquisition of India's Agila Specialties and recently helped the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which will both boost Mylan's profits and save children's lives, get signed into law.
Fortune's Most Powerful Women started as a MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Nov 21, 2013 1:23 PM ET
The CST Brands CEO, who will join the list of Fortune 500 women CEOs in late 2014, gives an inside look into what makes her tick.
FORTUNE -- As chairman, president and CEO of CST Brands, Kim Bowers leads the convenience store retailer's more than 1,900 locations. Valero Energy spun off CST last May, and the company's $13.1 billion revenue will earn it a spot in the 2014 Fortune 500 -- and MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Nov 14, 2013 12:44 PM ET
With a wild-card founder and complex offerings, the company struggles to win over the crop of haters that arose after last spring's product recall.
FORTUNE -- Thursday, Lululemon founder and chairman Chip Wilson blamed his company's customers for the retailer's product issues. "Quite frankly some women's bodies just actually don't work for it," he said on Bloomberg TV, referring to sheerness and pilling in Lululemon's famed yoga pants.
Lululemon (LULU) survived the springtime recall MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Nov 8, 2013 4:46 PM ET
New America Foundation CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter explains how her views on women's career challenges differ from those expressed by Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg.Colleen Leahey, Reporter - Oct 17, 2013 2:42 PM ET
|GM raising Corvette prices|
|Albertsons to merge with Safeway|
|Boeing reports wing cracks on Dreamliners|
|Bitcoin matters. Ignore the media circus.|
|Everything must go: There's a flood of store closings|