Executive changes at sportswear powerhouse Nike have observers murmuring about potential successors for CEO Mark Parker, Bloomberg reports.
While the 60-year-old Parker has not indicated plans to leave Nike, the recent promotion of China chief Michael Spillane to president of product and merchandising (Spillane's fifth promotion in nine years) appears to put him in the running to take over the company when Parker does eventually step down. The other contenders are COO Eric Sprunk and brand president Trevor Edwards, who’s widely seen as the favorite.
The speculation comes amid investor worries about Nike, whose stock has tumbled 14% of late in the face of currency fluctuations (exacerbated by the U.K.'s recent “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union) as well as a resurgence by German rival Adidas.
Nike, which under founder Phil Knight grew from an upstart shoemaker in the 1960s to a powerful global brand known for its innovation, is facing headwinds just as Adidas’ turnaround appears to be gaining some traction. Cowen and Co. analyst John Kernan recently named Adidas his new sports brand pick and said his confidence in Nike is waning.
“Our survey indicates Nike’s price perception declined in recent months while peers gained,” Kernan wrote last week, according to Footwear News. “Our math implies that [average selling price] outpaced [direct-to-consumer] contribution to Nike’s gross margin expansion by a ratio of 7:1 since 2014... We are trimming our [earnings per share] estimates and our price target is lowered to $65 from $70.”
Knight was the guy who saw Nike not just as an apparel and footwear maker, but as an “entertainment” company. Knight fought to bring on Michael Jordan, for example, launching a captivating and award-winning marketing campaign that helped launch Jordan to superhero status and vaulted basketball to new global popularity.
Knight reportedly chose Parker to succeed him as CEO because of Parker’s own product innovation and marketing expertise, and Trevor Edwards is seen as the favorite to succeed Parker because he fits the same profile, according to Bloomberg. “I think it’s Trevor unless he does something that is detrimental to that path,” Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough told Bloomberg. “He’s on that path right now, but there’s a lot of time between now and then.”
A Nike spokesperson declined to comment on the CEO race. For the moment, the company has no shoes to fill, but it does have shoes to sell, and those efforts have come under pressure as the dollar has surged. The currency issue is complicated by the Brexit vote, but even more worrisome is the unknown toll the vote could take on consumer demand in Europe more widely.
Credit Suisse has noted that European currency fluctuations over the past 18 months have dinged Nike's earnings by 5%, according to CNBC. The pound fell to a 31-year low versus the U.S. dollar on Monday, while the euro also dropped.
Analysts peg Nike's U.K. business at some 5% of total revenues and Europe overall accounts for about 25% of its sales, according CNBC, which makes it among the most exposed retailers when it comes to Europe.