Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is stepping down Jan. 1, according to a company press release. He will be replaced by President and Chief Operating Officer Patrik Frisk, who will also join Under Armour's board of directors.
Plank, who has been CEO since the company's founding in 1996, will take on a new role as executive chairman and brand chief, where he will "lead Under Armour's Board of Directors while focusing on product elevation, amplifying the brand story and stewarding the company's strong team culture."
Frisk has been in his role at Under Armour since 2017, and previously served in leadership roles throughout retail, including as CEO of the Aldo Group and various positions at VF Corporation.
The surprise departure of Kevin Plank was welcomed by Wall Street. Shares of the company were up in premarket trading, and a Wells Fargo note emailed to Retail Dive called the change "a net positive" for the sportswear retailer.
"While we certainly don't want to downplay Mr. Plank's success and achievements in guiding the company to a $5+ billion global brand, we do believe that in order to take the company to the proverbial 'next level', they could use some new blood in the CEO seat," the team of analysts wrote. "Furthermore, Mr. Frisk is a more-than-capable successor, as his work as COO since joining in July 2017 has been impressive (made significant progress in inventory management and other operational aspects of the business), and his prior background is encouraging as well."
Under Armour obviously thinks so, too. Plank called out Frisk's "proven track record of industry experience, straightforward leadership style and championship of our brand and culture" as the reasons for his appointment. The specific reasoning behind Plank's departure was more vague, though the company referred to a "multi-year, transition approach."
When asked about the reasoning for Plank's departure, an Under Armour spokesperson pointed Retail Dive to the press release.
As pointed out by Wells Fargo, though, the brand has struggled financially in recent years, falling behind rivals Nike and Adidas. Already this year, Under Armour announced the departure of the head of its North America division, Jason LaRose, a particularly tough region for the brand lately.
In addition to its financial woes, two executives were fired last year, reportedly over their corporate spending habits. That came shortly after an expose by the Wall Street Journal on the brand's corporate culture, which allowed executives to charge adult entertainment and gambling to corporate cards.
A former executive also filed a lawsuit over the summer claiming she was fired for reporting inappropriate conduct and saying the brand had a "male dominated culture."
Turning over leadership could bring new ideas to the table for the brand's ongoing transformation, and help it put brand crises behind it.
"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," Frisk said in a statement. "Today, I am even more resolute in this conviction."