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What New CEO Brings to Under Armour’s Future

Under Armour is turning to leadership at one of the world’s largest hospitality companies to head the footwear and athleticwear company as it hopes to bring in younger customers.

Stephanie Linnartz, currently the president of Marriott International, will become Under Armour’s president and CEO effective Feb. 27, 2023, and will also have a seat on the company’s board of directors.

The company had sought a new chief executive after former CEO Patrik Frisk left the role on June 1. Colin Browne filled in immediately after, serving as interim president and CEO. Browne will revert to his previous role as Under Armour’s chief operating officer.

“As a 25-year veteran of one of the world’s most respected global companies, we are thrilled to welcome Stephanie to the brand,” said Kevin Plank, founder, executive chair and brand chief at Under Armour, in a statement. “She is a proven growth leader with a distinguished track record of brand strategy, omnichannel execution, talent acquisition and development, and passion for driving best-in-class consumer connectivity, experience and brand loyalty.”

The CEO announcement also follows changes at the same position for not one, but two of Under Armour’s top competitors. Within a few days’ span, former Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden jumped ship to Adidas to succeed the exiting Kasper Rørsted, before Puma named chief commercial officer Arne Freundt as chairman and CEO to replace Gulden.

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The hiring also comes as Under Armour wants to expand its casual wear offerings, with Browne saying that the category would nearly triple the company’s total addressable market to $300 billion.

But the company has been stagnating in recent years despite high-profile partnerships with Stephen Curry, Tom Brady and Dwayne Johnson, undergoing a restructuring in April 2020 that ultimately led to the layoff of approximately 600 workers that year. In the time since, Under Armour has struggled to navigate through ongoing supply chain constraints, with margins further hit by higher discounting and promotional activities dictated by the broader market.

Under Armour saw paltry revenue growth of 1.8 percent in its second quarter, and revenue slid 0.2 percent in the period before.

Linnartz hopes to steer the ship in the right direction. She has served as Marriott’s president since 2021 and is responsible for providing strategic leadership for all aspects of the company’s global strategy, including brand management, sales (including e-commerce), marketing, revenue management, customer engagement, information technology, digital functions and emerging businesses.

Under Armour is an iconic brand with a huge opportunity ahead. This company has immense energy and excitement, and I am committed to building growth while maintaining operational excellence,” Linnartz said. “I look forward to joining the incredible UA team, partnering with Kevin and the board, and leading this amazing company into its next chapter, delivering for athletes, teammates, customers and shareholders.”

The CEO-in-waiting has notable experience in managing a major global enterprise. Marriott has a portfolio of nearly 8,200 properties across 138 countries and territories and 30 brands, including The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Marriott Hotels, W Hotels and Westin as well as a customer loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, which has 173 million members. Linnartz specifically oversees the Bonvoy program.

“Responsible for leading Marriott’s multi-billion dollar digital transformation, driving scale through continuous brand innovation across the portfolio, developing premier sports league and team partnerships, while architecting the extraordinary growth of its loyalty program—the board is confident that Stephanie—along with our leadership team and all of our key stakeholders—will accelerate our ability to realize the substantial opportunities for Under Armour as both an operating company and aspirational brand,” Plank said.

With digital transformation being such an important topic across retail, Linnartz has already helped drive this reality at Marriott, and Under Armour hopes she can do the same when she joins the C suite. The hospitality company’s technology overhaul included contactless services such as mobile check-in and check-out, mobile room keys and mobile dining. Under Linnartz, the company integrated its disparate loyalty programs under one account, implemented customer-facing AI-based chatbots available on Facebook Messenger and Slack, and partnered with Amazon to being Alexa to select hotel rooms.

In her time at Marriott, Linnartz also developed successful multi-year marquee partnerships with the NFL, NCAA and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 racing team. She held multiple C-suite positions at the company. From 2020 to 2021, she served as group president, consumer operations, technology and emerging businesses and as executive vice president and global chief commercial officer from 2013 to 2019. Before that, she held several executive roles in sales, marketing, and finance.

Linnartz is a member of The Home Depot’s board of directors, and has been named to the Forbes CEO Next 2021 list. She is also a member of the Fortune CEO Initiative, a forum of global corporate leaders committed to addressing major social issues.

Linnartz’s compensation will include a base salary of $1.3 million with a target bonus of 165 percent, plus stock, grant and equity awards. She is also set to receive a sign-on bonus of $375,000.