Under Armour Inc. founder Kevin Plank is stepping aside as head of the company he started in his grandmother’s basement, elevating the executive he brought in two years ago during a painful restructuring of the apparel maker.
Patrik Frisk, Under Armour’s president since 2017, will become CEO on Jan. 1. Plank will remain head of the board, taking the title of executive chairman.
Plank led Under Armour, No. 102 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000, through a multiyear restructuring that he’s called one of the most challenging periods for the company. Frisk, an apparel industry veteran, came aboard in June 2017 to retool Under Armour’s distribution strategy and develop its long-term growth plan.
With Under Armour ready to switch to offense from defense—amid lingering doubts about its direction—Plank made the decision to step aside. “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,” Plank said of Frisk.
Frisk has been in the apparel and footwear industry for more than three decades, including a three-year stint as CEO of Aldo (No. 968). Prior to that he held a variety of executive positions at VF Corp. (No. 87), manufacturer of popular brands including Timberland and the North Face.
“The opportunity that lies ahead of us is incredible,” Frisk said in a statement. “As our entire global team continues to lean hard into our transformation, I am honored to lead this great brand toward the realization of its full potential.”
Plank started Under Armour in 1995 while serving as a captain of the University of Maryland football team. Frustrated with the performance of his cotton undershirt, Plank set out to make one that was lighter and would stay drier. He has said that first product was the launch of a new category in sports apparel—performance apparel.
Plank has been chairman and CEO since 1996. He also served two stints as company president, from 1996 to 2008, and again from 2010 to 2017. He’s overseen the company’s move to Baltimore and its expansion into a multibillion-dollar business. Under Armour went public in 2005 and experienced rapid growth, with sales increasing to $5 billion in 2017 from $1.1 billion in 2010.
But the company has sputtered in recent years. Increased competition at home led to falling domestic sales—and little growth over the past two-and-a-half years. In response, the company wrote down inventory, reworked its supply chain and eliminated about 40% of its products to focus on the top-selling lines. Recovery has been slow. While competitors embraced casual consumers and the rapid growth of “athleisure” apparel, Under Armour remains dedicated to Plank’s original goal of billing itself as a performance brand.
Last year, the company cut 3% of its global workforce, or about 400 jobs. It also slowed spending on big-ticket sponsorships, such as the 10-year apparel agreement with Major League Baseball, which the company backed out of before the partnership was set to launch.
Analyst Sam Poser of Susquehanna Financial Group said last week his proprietary checks showed the company still losing shelf space at sporting-goods and family-footwear retailers. “The bottom line, despite operational improvements, is that the Under Armour brand image continues to lose its luster, in our view,” Poser said. “The obsessive focus on performance products limits the consumer base, as most sneakers and sports apparel are worn for comfort and style, not for the actual intended use.”
In other ecommerce news:
- J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (No. 40) named Brooke Buchanan as senior vice president, communications. She most recently served as senior vice president of corporate affairs at Whole Foods Markets, where she led the grocery retailer through its 2017 merger with Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1). She also held executive roles at home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. (No. 31) and Walmart Inc. (No. 3). Robin Beuthin is also joining J.C. Penney as vice president, creative marketing. She comes from The Walt Disney Company Ltd. (No. 102), where she spent 11 years as its vice president of retail brand and creative and as director of global brand and image.
- Facebook’s vice president of advertising, Rob Goldman, announced his departure from the social media company. “After more than seven years, today is my last day at Facebook,” Goldman wrote in a tweet. He did not share his future career plans.
- Operations data platform provider SoundCommerce appointed Laurent Burman as its new chief commercial officer. Burman will be responsible for SoundCommerce’s marketing and new customer development. Prior to joining SoundCommerce, he held executive positions at Procter & Gamble and Amazon, where he led the wireless retail and subscription business. “Laurent has a proven track-record and passion for building direct-to-consumer brands, scaling transformational businesses and ecommerce execution,” said SoundCommerce CEO Eric Best.
- Data and software company Tealium hired Heidi Bullock as its chief marketing officer. Prior to this role, she worked as chief marketing officer at B2B marketing company Engagio and as group vice president of global marketing at marketing automation software company Marketo. “She is a fantastic addition, not only due to her extensive knowledge in marketing but also her impressive leadership experience in building and scaling high-performance marketing teams,” said Jeff Lunsford, CEO of Tealium. “Heidi will undoubtedly help us expand our market position in a high growth market and continue to solidify us as a global leader in the industry.”