Nike, Under Armour CEOs Step Down Amid Wave of Top Departures

The CEOs of both Under Armour and Nike are stepping down from their respective roles, amid an unprecedented wave of top departures, including in retail and ecommerce.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank will serve as executive vice chairman and brand chief on the board of directors, to be replaced at the helm by COO Patrik Frisk. At Nike, longtime CEO Mark Parker will step down in January, to be replaced by board member John Donahoe, CEO of ServiceNow and former CEO of eBay and chairman of PayPal.

According to executive placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas as reported in Forbes, about 1,160 U.S. corporations announced CEO departures this year, an all-time record. Other notable executive departures in retail and ecommerce during 2019 include eBay head Devin Wenig, Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Steven Temares, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly and David Kornberg, president and CEO of Express.

Plank, who has headed Under Armour since its founding in 1996, has been tied to negative reports about company culture, according to CNN. He has also gotten involved in a political spat with President Trump about his characterizations of the company’s hometown of Baltimore, and was an early departure from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in 2017 after the president was reluctant to condemn white supremacists.

“As my partner during the most transformative chapter in our history, he has been exceptional in his ability to translate our brand’s vision into world-class execution by focusing on our long-term strategy and re-engineering our ecosystem through a strategic, operational and cultural transformation,” Plank said of Fisk in a statement.

Plank is stepping down as the company is struggling, with sales down 3% compared to a year ago. Under Armour’s retail and direct-to-consumer sales fell last quarter, and the company lowered its forecast as it battles Nike, Adidas and smaller brands that are thriving.

Parker, who took over from iconic Nike founder Phil Knight in 2006, was tied this month to a doping scandal involving the company’s head running coach, Alberto Salazar, according to the New York Times.

On a CNBC interview, Parker said Donahoe is “no stranger” at Nike and was “the best choice to come in,” lauding his digital background and skills to help drive growth.

Last year, a group of women came to Parker with a survey on gender discrimination, according to CNBC, alleging then-president Trevor Edwards helped create a “hostile work environment.” This led to a leadership restructuring including the ouster of Edwards, the heir apparent to Parker.

Under Parker, Nike also launched the highly controversial “Just Do It” 30-year anniversary campaign in 2018 featuring lightning rod former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It incited a wave of reaction on the right and the left, with many conservatives vowing to boycott the brand.

 

 

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