Under Armour last week removed two executives from the company following an internal review of the marketing department's spending, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources. Those sources told the publication that Under Armour questioned some of the executives' spending habits, including for events, nights out and gifts to athletes.
Under Armour confirmed to Retail Dive that Ryan Kuehl, senior vice president of global sports marketing, and Walker Jones, senior director of sports marketing, had been let go, though a company spokesperson would not say why, saying that they "do not comment on specific personnel matters."
The news comes shortly after the company came under fire for a corporate culture that allowed executives to charge adult entertainment and gambling to their corporate cards, causing CEO Kevin Plank to promise his employees a "meaningful culture transformation," which has evidently begun.
With the way 2018 has been shaking out, it's become almost routine for sports retailers to fall under scrutiny for culture issues long held quiet. The list has become extraordinarily long considering that the time frame spans under a single calendar year, and includes Lululemon, Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, at least in the court of public opinion.
According to LinkedIn, Kuehl worked at Under Armour for nine years, starting as the director of sports marketing for professional sports and occupying three other positions in the department before his most recent role. Jones was likewise a longtime employee, starting at the company 11 years ago, according to his LinkedIn, although the Journal's report notes that Jones left the company in 2014 over questions about his spending and was brought back on in 2016 at Plank's prompting.
Although these two executives are so far the only casualties of inappropriate spending habits at the retailer, the Journal's report implicates Plank in much of the trouble, calling the two execs part of Plank's "inner circle" and saying the CEO himself often hosted "lavish corporate events" and urged executives to "give in to the demands of athletes." There is no hint yet as to whether Plank will face any repercussions, or how deep his involvement runs, but the loss of its CEO would be a big blow to a company that has struggled in recent quarters to connect with customers and punch back against tough competition, even when those competitors are having corporate culture issues of their own.
While Lululemon's former CEO Laurent Potdevin was let go in February, problems have resurfaced recently through an investor lawsuit that called out the company's board for ignoring the toxic culture Potdevin fostered while giving him a generous severance package.
Nike's troubles are likewise far from over. The retailer's mass exodus of top executives might have occurred in May, but a class action lawsuit filed in August has kept the retailer's struggles in the spotlight, and Nike is expected to hear back on its request for an oral argument in that suit on Wednesday.