December 12, 2012 / 9:35 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Puma boss steps down as PPR tightens grip

* CEO Franz Koch to leave at end of March

* Company hopes to appoint new CEO by spring 2013

* Shareholder PPR to pursue reorganisation of company

FRANKFURT, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Puma’s chief executive will leave in March, part of an overhaul of the German sportswear maker intended to catch up with rivals such as Adidas and Nike.

Puma is cutting costs, reducing its product range and trimming management following a profit warning over the summer after customers in its main markets in Europe held back on purchases of sports shoes and t-shirts.

The company’s announcement of 33-year-old CEO Franz Koch’s exit on Wednesday came less than two weeks after Jean-Francois Palus from controlling shareholder PPR took over as chairman of the supervisory board from former CEO Jochen Zeitz who had headed Puma for 18 years.

Puma, 82.4 percent controlled by the French luxury goods group, said Koch would work with new chairman Palus, also PPR group managing director, until he left.

Koch only took over as CEO in summer 2011, so he will have been in the post for less than two years by the time he leaves in March

“We will pursue the reorganisation of the company, focus on product innovation and marketing, and will continue to devote the necessary resources to the development of the brand,” Palus said on Wednesday.

Palus said Puma hoped to hire a new chief executive by the spring. A graduate of HEC business school and a former Arthur Andersen consultant, Palus is seen by analysts as a pragmatic, hands-on manager.

The management overhaul has already seen chief operating office Klaus Bauer and marketing officer Antonio Bertone agreeing to step down from their roles. Adidas manager Andy Koehler would become Puma’s new chief operating office, German publication Manager Magazin reported on Wednesday.

Puma declined to comment on the report, while Adidas confirmed the departure of Koehler as its global head of sourcing.

PPR has said Puma, a distant third in terms of sales behind Adidas and Nike, was not spending enough on products, which has seen it lag rivals in bringing out new high-tech running and soccer shoes.

“This acquisition (Puma) has been a real failure and PPR, which probably wanted to turn it into a big fashion brand, missed its target,” said a sector analyst who asked to remain anonymous.

Puma shares were down 1.1 percent at 1619 GMT.

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