April 17, 2024

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Under Armor founder Kevin Plank returns as CEO, abruptly ending Stephanie Lennartz's three-year turnaround plan two years early.

Under Armor founder Kevin Plank returns as CEO, abruptly ending Stephanie Lennartz's three-year turnaround plan two years early.

Stephanie Lennartz has departed as CEO of Under Armor after just over a year on the job. Noah Wellman for Fortune

Stephanie Lennartz got less time than expected to fix Under Armour's many issues.

Lennartz, a veteran executive who was previously No. 2 at Marriott International, left the global hotel chain last year to become CEO of Under Armour. She took over the management of the struggling sportswear chain on February 27, 2023, and the company He said todayShe will leave the CEO role at the end of this month, after just over a year in the job. She said the company's turnaround strategy will take three years to implement.

Kevin Plank, the controversial founder and controlling shareholder of Under Armour, will once again become its CEO, effective April 1. The latest CEO to return to his previous job (a group that includes Disney's Bob Iger and Starbucks' Howard Schultz) will become its CEO. The company's fourth CEO in four years. He first “stepped down” from his position in January 2020 to become CEO, and continues to own 65% of the company's voting shares.

Under Armor did not provide a reason for the sudden CEO change, and a spokesperson declined to comment. in Share LinkedInBlank thanked Lennartz for her contributions to Under Armour, writing: “She has helped move the company forward in many important ways, including leveraging our leadership talent in product, design, supply chain, consumer loyalty and regional management.” “There is still a lot of work to be done, but her leadership has helped put us on the right path to victory.”

Running Under the Armor was always going to be a turnaround mission – one which Lennartz went into with his eyes wide open. “I believe in taking calculated risks,” she told me last summer, when I introduced her to her. luck.

“I hit the ground running, launching a well-defined three-year strategy that positions us for strategic growth,” Blank said. luck, in an email comment, at the time. “I couldn't be more excited to have her at Under Armor and work with her every day.”

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But the challenges Linnartz faced were steep: Under Armor had struggled to grow revenues or profits since its early heyday. Its stock price has fallen since its peak in 2015, and retail experts describe its brand identity as confused, at best.

Meanwhile, Blank's politics and personal life continued to put his company in an unflattering situation at times headlines. Plank has remained an inescapable presence at the company long after his departure as CEO, as I saw when I visited the company's headquarters in August — where I regaled several times with the story of how Plank started the company in his grandmother's basement. In 1996:

“Buildings and clothing lines are numbered either 96 (for the year he founded Under Armour) or 37 (for the number of KP college football jerseys),” she wrote at the time. “One hallway at headquarters is decorated with a huge photo of this jersey, next to enlarged versions of Plank Under Armour’s early business cards, along with #inspo phrases like ‘Humble and Hungry Beginnings.’”

Founder Kevin Plank has remained a major presence at Under Armour.

Patrick T. Fallon – Bloomberg via Getty Images

The apparent continued presence of a charismatic founder could pose a problem for a new CEO, says Neil Saunders, a GlobalData Retail analyst who covers Under Armour. “Even though someone else is CEO, Kevin Plank is still there,” he says. “It's still a founder-led company…and most CEOs don't want back-seat drivers.”

While Lennartz has hired several new top executives and launched a rewards program to increase customer loyalty, her strategy has not yielded immediate results: Under Armour's latest quarterly revenue. fell 6 percent From the previous year.

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“I inherited a brand that always had a lot of problems,” Saunders says. “And a year is not enough time to make a difference.”

Investors initially cheered Blank's return: the company's shares rose in after-hours trading, Before sliding back down. Under Armor also announced that when Plank becomes CEO, Mohamed El-Erian, former CEO of PIMCO, will become non-executive chairman of its board.

“When I look back on my past year at Under Armour, one of the things I'm most proud of is the excellent talent we brought to the organization,” Linartz said. he wrote in an email For Under Armor employees. She added that she wished Blank “and the executive leadership team and all of you continued success in the years ahead.”