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Nike and Under Armour Replace Chief Executives in Surprise Moves

On Tuesday, two of the most important American athletic brands made sweeping changes to their leadership structure as both Nike and Under Armour saw their CEOs step down on the same day.

Early in the day, Baltimore-based Under Armour announced that Kevin Plank is stepping down from his role as CEO of the company he founded in 1996 from his grandmother’s Washington, D.C. basement. Plank will join the board of directors as executive chairman and brand chief, and current president and chief operating officer Patrik Frisk will ascend to the chief executive role. He was the CEO of the Aldo Group after holding various leadership positions within VF Corp.

In its first year, Under Armour tallied around $17,000 in revenue, according to CNBC, which said the brand sold $5.2 billion worth of its performance apparel, footwear and accessories last year.

“Our multi-year, transition approach has ensured purposeful leadership continuity. Patrik is the right person to serve as Under Armour’s next CEO,” Plank said in a statement. “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 referred to his successor’s “proven track record” and his “straightforward” leadership style in recommending him as the next champion of the Under Armour brand. Frisk added that the move fits right into Under Armour’s three-year transformation plan, designed to bring the brand back to prominence in the performance apparel industry.

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“I joined Under Armour to be part of an iconic brand that demonstrated the power of sport and premium experience, when properly harnessed, is capable of unlimited possibilities,” said Frisk, who will commence CEO duties on Jan. 1, 2020. “Today, I am even more resolute in this conviction. The opportunity that lies ahead of us is incredible. 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.”

The C-suite reshuffling comes as Under Armour stock fell recently as investors questioned the brand’s weak performance in North America and its commitment to producing performance apparel that can compete in the industry.

Nike, on the other hand, has continued to dominate as a performance and lifestyle powerhouse in 2019, weathering a spate of scandals last year hinging on sexual harassment and misconduct plus a backlash from some customers over a campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.

But the decision for Mark Parker to step down from the CEO role he’s held for the 13 years comes just weeks after news reports uncovered allegedly direct links between the Nike executive and Alberto Salazer, the brand-backed running coach barred from track and field for four years as a result of breaching anti-doping rules.

Parker will be replaced by board member John Donahoe, effective Jan. 13, 2020, Nike announced Tuesday.

new nike ceos
Mark Parker (left) and John Donahoe (right). Nike

“This is an exciting time for Nike where we see brand strength and momentum throughout the world and great opportunity for future growth,” Parker said in a statement. “I am delighted John will join our team. His expertise in digital commerce, technology, global strategy and leadership combined with his strong relationship with the brand, make him ideally suited to accelerate our digital transformation and to build on the positive impact of our Consumer Direct Offense.”

Along with serving on Nike’s board, Donahoe currently holds the position of CEO at ServiceNow, a cloud-computing company. He is also chairman of Paypal Holdings, Inc. and from 2008 to 2015 he served as the president and CEO of eBay, Inc. after serving as the CEO and worldwide managing director of Bain & Co. from 1999 to 2005.

“It is an honor to become president and CEO of this amazing, innovative company, and to join the more than 76,000 talented and passionate employees dedicated to serving athletes,” Donahoe added. “Over the last five years, I’ve been proud to be connected to Nike through my role on the board and now look forward to being a full-time member of the team, working even more closely with Mark, building on Nike’s success and seizing the opportunities ahead.”

Donahoe will continue to serve as a board member and will work closely with Parker and the brand’s senior management team.