Under Armour’s Kevin Plank is stepping down as CEO

Under Armour founder and chief executive Kevin Plank will step down from the sports apparel company’s top role in January, handing over the reins to its president, Patrik Frisk, at a time when the company is struggling to right its key North American business.

Plank founded Under Armour in 1996 in Baltimore. Its first product, a sweat-wicking shirt for football players he made in his grandmother’s basement, became the cornerstone of what’s now a $5-billion-a-year business. He will stay on as executive chairman and brand chief after the change goes into effect on New Year’s Day.

As brand chief, Plank will work on product innovation and serve as an ambassador of sorts for Under Armour. Frisk, 56, will report to Plank, join Under Armour’s board and take on the day-to-day running of the company, an arrangement that Plank says will let Under Armour “be as fast as it needs to be, as efficient as it needs to be.”

Plank and Frisk detailed their plans in an exclusive joint interview with Fortune. Plank said that he’s been thinking about this move for a long time, and insisted that this isn’t a retirement, but rather an opportunity to focus more on big-picture tasks. “It’s also freedom for me to get out of the weeds,” Plank said.

Part of what Plank wants to do, he said, is return to the mindset he had when he was building Under Armour, of coming up with new products to “blow people’s minds.” He added, “We want to continue to make products for people that they never knew they needed, and once they have them, they don’t know how they could live without them.”

As an example of the latter, he pointed to last year’s HOVR smart shoe, which uses an embedded chip and app to provide runners with real-time data and post-workout statistics. “I don’t think the brand has gotten enough credit yet for just how cool a product we made,” he said.

Plank, 47, controls the company thanks to his 65% share of voting rights (he owns 15% of regular shares), and he is changing roles of his own volition. His tenure has reportedly not been without run-ins with the board. The Wall Street Journal wrote earlier this year that Plank irked directors when he took the advice of a journalist and friend over management’s in two instances: first, when dealing with a tepidly received new sneaker in 2016; and then, in 2017, when deciding whether to express support for President Trump despite controversy over the White House’s immigration policies.(Under Armour said at the time that there were clear delineations between Plank’s private interests and the company’s, and that Plank was accountable to the board on company matters.)

Plank dismissed any notion there was pressure of any kind from directors to make the move now. “To be completely clear, this is strictly my decision—this has been part of my plan,” he told Fortune. Plank held up this changing of the guard as the “gold standard” for succession planning at a founder-led company, especially given how often ego interferes with that process.

The company’s succession plan was arguably telegraphed two years ago when Frisk was tapped to be Under Armour’s president and operations chief. Frisk is a former CEO of Aldo Group, a Canadian shoe store chain, and before that was a 10-plus-year veteran of Timberland parent VF Corp.

The change at the top comes at a challenging time for Under Armour, which says it is likelto report declining sales in North America—by far its biggest market, generating 69% of revenue—for a third straight year. Sales in the U.S. and Canada peaked in 2016 at about $4 billion after a meteoric rise (they rose $1 billion alone in the preceding two years) but by last year had fallen to $3.5 billion.

This year, North American sales fell 3% in the first half of the year. Last month, the company hired a new president of its North America business.

Under Armour’s shares were up 5.4% to $21.18 in mid-day trading on Tuesday. For the year, they are up 20.2%, though they remain below a 52-week high of $27.72 hit in July.

Under Armour has competed against the Nike juggernaut and Adidas‘s striking return to form in North America, as well as comebacks by brands such as Champion and Fila. And newer names like Lululemon Athletica have muscled in on its turf.

Some 60% of Under Armour’s revenue comes from wholesale accounts—that is, sales to other retailers. But Wall Street analysts say it is losing shelf space at some retailers, and NPD Group’s tracking service estimated that Under Armour’s share of the U.S. activewear market had fallen 1.2 percentage points to 5.6% in the 12 months ended in June.

Some on Wall Street fault Under Armour’s insistence on focusing on the high-performance aspects of its gear, even as competitors have also emphasized fashion and casual clothing. (Nike, for example, has a large area inside Nordstrom’s new Manhattan flagship.)

“It’s about making sure we are focused,” Frisk told Fortune. “The brand positioning is very clear for us: we’re a performance company.” Besides, he added, people want both performance and aesthetics in their athletic wear now.

Then there is the ongoing work of undoing the damage caused by Under Armour’s sales in high volumes in off-price discount avenues in recent years. Part of resolving that will involve generating far more sales via its own stores and web site, as brands like Nike are doing. Under Armour is aiming for more than half its business to come from those sources in five years, up from about 35% now. That includes roughly doubling the number of Under Armour stores, to 2,500 locations.

“We believe in retail at the right place and at the right time,” said Frisk.

As for Plank, he said the company is moving past its challenges, transitioning from defense to offense as he puts it. He wants Under Armour to be a “loud brand and a quiet company.”

“We’ve seen some of the exact opposite of that the last couple of years,” he adds. And the change at the top is aimed at addressing that.


Former CEO sells his stake in

Overstock founder Patrick Byrne, who resigned abruptly as CEO last month, has sold his entire stake in the online retailer.

Byrne unloaded close to 5 million shares, worth about $90 million before taxes, according to a regulatory filing Wednesday evening. Byrne was previously the company’s largest shareholder. Last month, after resigning, he told Forbes that he intended to hold onto his shares, saying he had “great, great enthusiasm for the prospects of the company.”

However, Byrne said he would be putting the proceeds into gold, silver and cryptocurrencies. He referred to these investments as “countercyclical to the economy.”

Byrne went on to say that in the event of an economic downturn, the value of these assets would rise, and he would be in a position to provide a capital injection to Overstock. “You will have not just access to capital, you will have access to the friendliest capital imaginable: my own,” he wrote.

He also said his decision to sell his shares was prompted by a fear of retaliation from the government, which he referred to as the “Deep State,” for reasons that were not entirely made clear. “If I had stayed at Overstock or even remained a large owner of OSTK, they would try to break Overstock as a way of crippling me,” he wrote.

Byrne stepped down as Overstock’s longtime CEO in August, after disclosing that he had been involved as a federal informant in the investigation of accused Russian spy Maria Butina. In his resignation letter, he cited his involvement in “certain government matters” as complicating “all manner of business relationships from insurability to strategic discussions regarding our retail business.”

However, there is more to the story. In recent years, Byrne had become captivated by blockchain technology, a decentralized, distributed ledger technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. He had funneled Overstock’s dwindling resources into blockchain ventures—more than $200 million since 2014—yet had little to show for it. The company’s blockchain investment arm, Medici Ventures, has yet to generate meaningful revenues and racked up losses of $61 million in 2018.

Byrne also began exploring a sale of the retail business in 2017, but to date no buyers have materialized. Overstock, once reliably profitable, lost $206 million last year and $110 million in 2017. The company’s heavily shorted stock has plummeted from $87 in early 2018 to $15.30 at the start of trading on Thursday as some $1.5 billion in market capitalization has evaporated.


BJ’s names Lee Delaney as president

Lee Delaney, chief commercial officer at BJ’s Wholesale Club, has been promoted to president.

BJ’s said that Delaney, previously executive vice president, begins in the new role effective immediately. With the move, he adds the president’s title from Christopher Baldwin, chairman and CEO. Delaney will continue to report to Baldwin.

“Lee’s strategic vision and leadership have been instrumental in transforming BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Baldwin said in a statement on the promotion of Delaney (left). “We are creating a focused commercial organization that will provide outstanding member service by delivering great products at unbeatable value. Under Lee’s leadership, the new organization will build on our progress as we continue our transformation, driving long-term, profitable growth. I look forward to continuing to partner with Lee to transform BJ’s Wholesale Club.”

Delaney joined Westborough, Mass.-based BJ’s in May 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. He became executive VP and chief commercial officer in February 2018. Before coming to the warehouse club retailer, Delaney was a partner at the Boston office of Bain & Co., where he was a leader in the firm’s consumer products practice, and prior to that worked for Electronic Data Systems and Deloitte Consulting.

“We have great opportunities ahead of us, and I’m thrilled to lead a strong team as we execute our strategic priorities,” Delaney stated. “The new structure will enable us to create a seamless membership experience from acquisition to renewal while providing the outstanding value and service that members expect from BJ’s Wholesale Club. I look forward to building on our momentum as we continue our transformation.”

BJ’s, which became a public company again in June 2018, operates 217 wholesale clubs and 141 BJ’s Gas locations in 16 states.


Jack Ma officially retires as Alibaba’s chairman

Jack Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman today, handing the role over to the company’s current CEO, Daniel Zhang. The transition was announced a year ago.

Ma will continue serving on Alibaba’s board until its annual general shareholders’ meeting next year. He also remains a lifetime partner of Alibaba Partnership, a group drawn from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates that has the right to nominate (and in some situations, appoint) up to simple majority of its board.

Ma said in last year’s announcement that he plans for his departure from Alibaba Group to be very gradual: “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

Ma left Alibaba’s CEO position in 2013 and was succeeded first by Jonathan Lu. In 2015 Lu was replaced by Zhang, the company’s former COO. As its CEO and now its chairman, Zhang has taken Alibaba’s reins as it copes with a slowdown in China’s e-commerce market after a decade of explosive growth. The online retail landscape also now includes new players like Pinduoduo, which have gained an advantage by focusing on smaller cities, which are important growth markets for internet companies.

One interesting fact about the day Ma chose for his retirement as chairman is that it is Teachers’ Day in China. Ma is a former English teacher who is still nicknamed “Teacher Ma” and has said that he plans to devote time to education philanthropy.


A.C. Moore names its next CEO

Crafts retailer A.C. Moore has promoted President and Chief Marketing and Merchandising Officer Anthony Piperno to the CEO position, the company said Wednesday.

He will replace current CEO Pepe Piperno, Anthony Piperno’s father, who took over control of the retailer after his family purchased it in 2011, following years of supplying it through crafts wholesaler Sbar’s, which Piperno owns.

Pepe Piperno will transition to chairman to “provide the company with industry expertise, guidance and strategic insight,” A.C. Moore said.

A.C. Moore launched its first store in Moorestown, New Jersey, in 1985 with 45,000 SKUs, 35 employees and a 20,000-square-foot store. That was the same year Pepe Piperno took over as president for the distributor Sbar’s, which would forge close business ties to the retailer.

Today A.C. Moore operates 142 stores and has 5,000 employees. It’s had a relationship with the Piperno family since the days it was expanding along the East Coast, where the retailer still has most of its stores.

Starting in 2005, Anthony Piperno ran Sbar’s sales and merchandising units, according to his LinkedIn account. With the acquisition of A.C. Moore, he took over merchandising for the retailer, graduating through the management ranks. He took on the president role from Pepe Piperno last year.

According to a press release at the time, it was Anthony Piperno who spearheaded the acquisition of online arts and craft retailer Blitsy and an exclusive partnership with handcraft marketplace Zibbet to deepen and expand A.C. Moore’s digital efforts.

Anthony Piperno said in a statement at the time, “These dynamic additions to our company can rapidly accelerate adoption of our proprietary product across a global audience of creative consumers and position our family as industry leaders among arts and crafts enthusiasts everywhere.”


Source: Retail Dive

Chico’s names CEO and organizational consolidation

Chico’s FAS has ended its search for a chief executive with an internal appointee.

Bonnie Brooks has been named CEO and president of Chico’s FAS and will remain a member of the Chico’s board. Brooks, former vice chair, president and CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company, has served as interim CEO at Chico’s since the departure of Shelley Broader in April.

“Since being appointed interim CEO, Bonnie has moved quickly to sharpen the company’s focus on core priorities that have stabilized the business and positioned Chico’s FAS to deliver improved top- and bottom-line results,” said David Walker, chair of the board.

Walker said that the board received interest from a number of qualified external CEO candidates with deep merchant experience.

“The board determined, however, that the best way to build on the progress underway at this time is to appoint Bonnie as CEO,” he said. “In addition to providing continuity, Bonnie’s leadership enables us to continue leveraging both her experience driving numerous successful turnarounds at other apparel retailers as well as the knowledge she already has of Chico’s FAS.”

In other appointments, responsibility for Chico’s apparel brands — Chico’s and White House Black Market — has been consolidated under Molly Langenstein, appointed president, apparel group, effective August 1, 2019. Langenstein joins after nearly three decades with Macy’s, where she most recently served as general business manager, ready-to-wear.

Chico’s intimate brands, Soma and TellTale, will continue to be led by Mary van Praag, president, intimates group.

New CEO Brooks has been a member of the Chico’s board since 2016. She joined Hudson’s Bay in 2008 as CEO and president. From 2012 to 2014, Brooks served as President of Hudson’s Bay Company, responsible for both Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor.

From 1997 to 2008, Brooks was based in Hong Kong serving as an executive officer, including as president, of the Lane Crawford Joyce Group, a women’s fashion retailer with over 500 stores in Asia, and as global merchandise manager for Dickson Concepts (International) Limited, a luxury retail group and owner of Harvey Nichols, U.K. Prior to that, Brooks spent over a decade at Holt Renfrew & Company.

“The leadership structure announced today will strengthen the organization, create clear lines of responsibility and accelerate our sales driving priorities,” Brooks said. “I am confident we are focused on the right areas and moving in the right direction with stronger performance expected in the second half of the year.”

Chico’s has been challenged with sliding sales. The company’s total same-store sales fell 4.9% last year while net sales fell to $2.1 billion from $2.3 billion. The retailer is also reducing its store portfolio, having announced with plans to close at least 250 U.S. locations over the next three years in what it called a “strategic decision to rebalance the mix between its physical store presence with its digital network.”

The retailer said that under Brooks’ leadership it has reset priorities for growth to focus on three distinct areas. These include driving stronger sales through improved product and marketing; optimizing the customer journey by simplifying, digitizing and extending the company’s unique and personalized service; and transforming sourcing and supply chain operations to increase product speed to market and improve quality.


Claire’s announces new CEO

Jewellery and accessories chain Claire’s has appointed Ryan Vero as its new CEO, which will see interim CEO Kevin Corning return to his role on the board.

Vero joins the company from Party City Retail Group, where he was president, overseeing nearly 1,000 retail stores in North America and Europe, as well as e-commerce and web operations.

He previously worked in executive leadership roles at Sears and OfficeMax, where he focused on key consumer business lines, as well as e-commerce, marketing and merchandising operations.

Vero said: “Claire’s is at a moment of great potential, as the retail industry continues to change rapidly and consumer preferences continue to shift. I’m looking forward to leveraging these opportunities to ensure the company is well-positioned for growth and that we are doing everything we can to provide our customers with the fun, unique products that they love.”

Samantha Algaze, chairman of the Claire’s board, added: “Ryan’s track record of growth through innovation makes him the ideal leader to drive Claire’s into the future. We look forward to this new era for Claire’s”.


VF Corp names new head of Dickie’s brand

VF Corporation has appointed Denny Bruce to the position of global brand president of Dickies, the company said Monday in a press release. Bruce will manage the brand’s direct-to-consumer and wholesale operations, and report to Curt Holtz, the executive vice president and group president of workwear, per the release.

Bruce was previously the executive vice president of sales, product and marketing at Traeger Pellet Grills, acted as the vice president of domestic sales at Skullcandy, and held roles at Vans and Burton Snowboards.

The appointment of Bruce follows a series of strategic decisions by the apparel and footwear conglomerate over the past few years. In 2016, VF announced that it would sell its contemporary brands businesses, which included the labels 7 for All Mankind, Splendid and Ella Moss to Delta Galil Industries for $120 million. In 2017, VF acquired Williamson-Dickie Mfg.

Then, in 2018 the company announced that it was going to spin off its denim business into a new company that would house the LeeWranglerRock & Republic and VF Outlet brands. That same year VF completed the sale of apparel brand Nautica to Authentic Brands Group.

Selling properties to become leaner and key acquisitions has so far proven successful, with the company posting $3.2 billion in net revenues for the quarter ending in March, an increase of 6% year over year, which surpassed estimates. The increase was driven by international and direct-to-consumer sales, and a strong showing by the active, outdoor and work segments. Full year fiscal revenues increased 12% to $13.8 billion.

Out of the 20 brands owned by VF, Dickies is the fourth largest brand by revenue, according to the company.


Source: Retail Dive

Sami Kahale to be the new CEO of Esselunga

Esselunga is to appoint the new CEO: Sami Kahale, Egyptian engineer living in Italy for several years, will succeed the current Managing Director Carlo Saza who, as newly elected President, will be in charge of defining the new distribution chain strategies.

Kahale, 58, graduated in engineering at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana (MBA in Economics at Babson College in Massachusetts) joined Esselunga in 2018 as general manager, after spending 33 years with Procter & Gamble and holding positions of increasing responsibility at national and international level, until becoming managing director for Southern Europe.

During his first year at Esselunga, Sami Kahale transferred both his know how and  his organizational, managerial and marketing skills to the managers.

Esselunga closed financial year 2018 with sales amounting almost 8 billion Euro and an adjusted Mol of 710 millions. such positive trend was confirmed over the first 2 quarters of 2019, with sales grown by 2.9%.


Source: Distribuzione Moderna

Sprouts names Jack Sinclair as new CEO

Sprouts Farmers Market has appointed Jack L. Sinclair as its new CEO and member of its board of directors. Sinclair has more than 35 years of experience in the grocery industry, most recently serving as the CEO of 99 Cents Only Stores. He also served as 99 Cents Only’s chief merchandising officer, and was executive vice president of Walmart‘s U.S. grocery division from 2007 to 2015.

Sprouts is facing many shifts all at once in its corporate team, which can be overwhelming for a company, particularly one that’s expanding as rapidly as the natural grocer is. But with the right guidance and strategy, Sprouts could thrive under its new leadership.

Sinclair’s past experience in food retail could help Sprouts stay relevant as it moves into new markets and updates stores in existing ones. His work with Walmart’s grocery division as it was shifting to e-commerce could help Sprouts connect with shoppers in-store and online. His year as CEO for 99 Cents Only Stores, which has undergone major debt dealsand pressure from the crowded discount store space, will add expertise for Sprouts in dealing with competitive markets.

The transition from one executive to the next can be a rocky time for retailers as both the company and executive acclimate to each others’ visions, plans and working styles. Major projects and business goals can be put on hold, but it can also spark new ideas and kickstart growth. Sprouts’ stock price was down 3% Friday morning following the news of the leadership changes, indicating some investor uneasiness.

Under previous CEO Amin Maredia, Sprouts charted an aggressive expansion plan of around 30 stores a year and a runway to 1,200 stores nationwide. Small stores, reasonable prices and an abundance of fresh offerings have been the company’s signature features. Sprouts has shown a willingness to adjust its approach, with new stores now featuring an “enhanced” format that offers more prepared foods. The company is also remodeling existing stores under this format and introducing more private label products.

In its past few quarterly earnings, Sprouts has reported growth in e-commerce and store brands, as well as strong new store sales. The company has been expanding and is on target to open 28 new stores in fiscal 2019, per its first quarter earnings report.


Source: Grocery Dive