Beneath Armour founder Kevin Plank is again as CEO, abruptly ending Stephanie Linnartz’s three-year turnaround plan two years early


Stephanie Linnartz received even much less time than anticipated to repair Beneath Armour’s many issues.

Linnartz, a veteran govt who was beforehand No. 2 at Marriott Worldwide, left the worldwide resort chain final 12 months to develop into CEO of Beneath Armour. She took over the struggling sportswear chain on Feb. 27, 2023—and, the corporate mentioned at the moment, she might be leaving the CEO function on the finish of this month, after simply over a 12 months on the job. She had mentioned that her turnaround technique for the corporate would take three years to execute.

Kevin Plank, Beneath Armour’s controversial founder and controlling shareholder, will once more develop into its CEO, beginning April 1. The most recent “boomerang” CEO to return to his former job (a gaggle that features Disney’s Bob Iger and Howard Schultz of Starbucks) will develop into his firm’s fourth CEO in 4 years. He first “stepped again” from the job in January 2020 to develop into govt chairman, and he continues to personal 65% of the corporate’s voting shares. 

Beneath Armour didn’t give a cause for the abrupt CEO change, and a spokesperson declined to remark. In a LinkedIn put up, Plank thanked Linnartz for her contributions in the direction of Beneath Armour: “She helped advance the corporate ahead in lots of vital methods, together with elevating our management expertise in product, design, provide chain, client loyalty, and regional administration,” he wrote. “A lot work nonetheless must be achieved, however her management helped put us heading in the right direction towards successful.”

Operating Beneath Armour was at all times going to be a turnaround job–which Linnartz went into with eyes vast open. “I consider in taking calculated dangers,” she advised me final summer season, once I profiled her for Fortune

“She has hit the bottom operating, launching a clearly articulated three-year technique that units us up for strategic progress,” Plank advised Fortune, in an emailed remark, on the time. “I couldn’t be extra excited to have her at Beneath Armour and to work along with her each day.” 

However the challenges Linnartz confronted have been steep: Beneath Armour had struggled to develop income or earnings since its early heyday. Its share worth has plummeted since its 2015 peak, and retail consultants name its model identification muddled, at greatest.

In the meantime, Plank’s politics and private life have continued to place his firm into sometimes-unflattering headlines. And Plank had remained an unavoidable presence on the firm properly after his departure from the CEO function, as I noticed once I visited the corporate’s headquarters in August—the place I used to be regaled a number of occasions with the story of how Plank began the corporate in his grandmother’s basement in 1996:

“Buildings and attire traces are numbered both 96 (for the 12 months he based Beneath Armour) or 37 (for the variety of KP’s school soccer jersey),” I wrote then. “One hall at headquarters is embellished with an infinite picture of that jersey, subsequent to blown-up variations of Plank’s early Beneath Armour enterprise playing cards, subsequent to #inspo phrases like ‘HUMBLE & HUNGRY BEGINNINGS.’” 

Founder Kevin Plank has remained an outsize presence at Beneath Armour.

Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg by way of Getty Pictures

The seen ongoing presence of a charismatic founder is usually a drawback for a brand new CEO, says Neil Saunders, a GlobalData Retail analyst who covers Beneath Armour. “Although another person’s CEO, Kevin Plank continues to be there,” he says. “It’s nonetheless a really founder-led firm … and most CEOs don’t need backseat drivers.”

Whereas Linnartz had employed a number of new senior executives and launched a rewards program to extend buyer loyalty, her technique had not yielded speedy outcomes: Beneath Armour’s most up-to-date quarterly revenues fell 6 % from a 12 months earlier. 

“She inherited a model that at all times had a number of issues,” says Saunders,. “And a 12 months is basically not sufficient time to make a change.”

Traders at first cheered Plank’s return: The corporate’s shares rose in after-hours buying and selling, earlier than sliding again down. Beneath Armour additionally introduced that, as Plank turns into CEO, Mohamed A. El-Erian, the previous PIMCO CEO, will develop into the non-executive chair of its board.

“As I look again at my previous 12 months at Beneath Armour, one of many issues I’m most pleased with is the superb expertise we now have introduced into the group,” Linnartz wrote in an e-mail to Beneath Armour workers. She added that she needs Plank, “the chief management staff and all of you a lot success within the years forward.”

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