Rapha CEO Simon Mottram to step down

Rapha founder Simon Mottram is set to step down from his 17-year tenure as head of the British brand

Simon Mottram, CEO and founder of cycling clothing giant Rapha, is set to step down as the chief executive of the British brand after 17 years in the role.

In his place, William Kim, a former CEO of AllSaints who has worked with Burberry and Gucci, will take over as chief executive for Rapha’s global business. Mottram will continue until the New Year, at which point he will leave his CEO role but stay on the Board of Directors and play a role as the company founder.

Related – Simon Mottram on how he took a bet with Rouleur

Creating Rapha (& Rouleur)

Mottram has been hailed as one of the greatest marketers and business innovators in modern cycling. Founding Rapha in 2004 alongside Luke Scheybeler, Mottram took inspiration from team Rapha-Géminiani, a 1960s cycling team supported by the aperitif drink Saint Raphaël.

Photography: Peter Stuart

The brand borrowed from the typography and style of the 1960s and ‘70s in cycling culture and fashion, ebbing into the mythology of the sport at a time when cycling began its great resurgence in the UK in the mid-2000s. It was at that time when Mottram also launched Rouleur magazine, then a part of the Rapha brand.

“I had plenty of other things to do,” Mottram told Rouleur in 2020. “I think about three or four people were working for Rapha at the time, so we were doing a lot with not very much. And I'm not a magazine publisher.”

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He launched the magazine with editor Guy Andrews, initially publishing only a few hundred copies which remain an expensive collector's item. Rouleur became an independent company in 2013, and now exists entirely separately to Rapha as a business.

Rapha’s wider commercial success has been an international business story.

Photography: Peter Stuart

Growing the brand, growing the sport

The brand became a WorldTour sponsor in 2013 when it began to produce Team Sky’s apparel. It was a partnership that elevated their previously largely style-orientated collection into true performance cycling apparel.

Rapha was later sold to the heirs to the Walmart dynasty, RZC Investments, in 2017. The purchase was followed by a tough year for the business, publishing a £20m loss in 2018. Since then, though, the brand has been going from strength to strength.

“We got some investment in 2018. But that was more just to help us correct as a business,” Mottram explains to Rouleur, speaking in an interview earlier this year. “In the last two years, we've been absolutely flying and making enough money to invest ourselves.”

Photography: Peter Stuart

Mottram has always insisted, though, that Rapha was a project rooted in cycling passion, and growing the sport itself, rather than growing profits.

“The reason I started the company, the reason we've done things like launching Rouleur magazine, clubhouses and members club and publishing books, selling coffee, and making CDs and doing all these sort of slightly left field things that we've done, is all about promoting cycling,” Mottram says. “It's not about trying to find a smart way of making some margin.”

“It's about connecting people in sport and showing the sport in a new light, trying to raise the whole sport up. That sounds grandiose, but you do what you can, don’t you?”

Photography: Peter Stuart

The 55-year-old's business ethic has gravitated around his love of cycling. “Suffering is at the heart of the sport – suffering is the point,” he says. “And I actually think it's a much bigger idea that actually affects, for me, running the company. The more effort you put in, the more you're going to get out.”

“There's no easy sort of coasting when you're running a company. And the same is true in lots of walks of life. So I think suffering, this idea of greater reward comes from greater effort, is at the heart of cycling.”

Mottram says he will continue to ride his bike and frequently attend Rapha events.

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