Stephanie Linnartz has been serving as CEO of Under Armor for just over a year. Noah Willman for Fortune

Stephanie Linnartz was given even less time than expected to resolve Under Armour’s many problems.

Linnartz, a veteran executive who was previously No. 2 at Marriott International, left the global hotel chain last year to become CEO of Under Armor. She took over the struggling sportswear chain on February 27, 2023 – and the company said today that she will leave the CEO role at the end of this month after just over a year on the job. She had said that implementing her turnaround strategy for the company would take three years.

Kevin Plank, the controversial founder and controlling shareholder of Under Armour, will once again become CEO from April 1. The latest “boomerang” CEO to return to his previous job (a group that also includes Disney’s Bob Iger and Starbucks’ Howard Schultz) will become its new CEO. the company’s fourth CEO in four years. He first left his position in January 2020 to become executive chairman, and he still owns 65% of the company’s voting shares.

Under Armor did not give a reason for the abrupt CEO change and a spokesperson declined to comment. In a LinkedIn post, Plank thanked Linnartz for her contributions to Under Armour: “She has advanced the company in many important ways, including elevating our leadership talent across product, design, supply chain, consumer loyalty and regional management,” he wrote. . “There is still a lot of work to be done, but her leadership has put us on track to win.”


Running Under Armor was always going to be a turnaround, which Linnartz entered with her eyes wide open. “I believe in taking calculated risks,” she told me last summer, when I profiled her Fortune.

“She has hit the ground running and launched a clearly formulated three-year strategy that positions us for strategic growth,” Plank said. Fortune, in an email response at the time. “I couldn’t be more excited to have her at Under Armor and work with her every day.”

But the challenges Linnartz faced were significant: Under Armor has struggled to grow sales or profits since its early heyday. Its share price has tumbled since its 2015 peak, and retail experts call its brand identity muddled at best.

Meanwhile, Plank’s politics and personal life mean his company sometimes receives unflattering news coverage. And Plank had remained an unavoidable presence at the company long after his departure from the CEO role, as I saw when I visited the company’s headquarters in August – where I was regaled several times with the story of how Plank started the company in his grandmother’s basement. in 1996:

“Buildings and clothing lines are numbered either 96 (for the year he founded Under Armour) or 37 (for KP’s college football jersey number),” I wrote at the time. “A hallway at headquarters is decorated with a huge photo of that jersey, next to enlarged versions of Plank’s early Under Armor business cards, next to #inspo phrases like ‘HUMBLE & HUNGRY BEGINNINGS.’”

Founder Kevin Plank is still a major presence at Under Armour.

Patrick T. Fallon – Bloomberg via Getty Images

The visible continued presence of a charismatic founder can be a problem for a new CEO, says Neil Saunders, a GlobalData Retail analyst who covers Under Armour. “Despite the fact that someone else is CEO, Kevin Plank is still there,” he says. “It’s still a very founder-led company… and most CEOs don’t want drivers in the backseat.”

Although Linnartz had hired several new senior managers and launched a rewards program to increase customer loyalty, her strategy had not yielded immediate results: Under Armour’s most recent quarterly sales fell 6 percent from a year earlier.

“She inherited a brand that always had a lot of problems,” says Saunders. “And one year is really not enough to change anything.”

Investors initially cheered Plank’s return, with the company’s shares rising in after-hours trading before falling again. Under Armor also announced that once Plank becomes CEO, Mohamed A. El-Erian, the former CEO of PIMCO, will become the non-executive chairman of the board.

“As I reflect on my past year at Under Armour, one of the things I am most proud of is the outstanding talent we brought to the organization,” Linnartz wrote in an email to Under Armor employees. She added that she wishes Plank, “the executive leadership team and all of you the best of luck in the years ahead.”

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