Under Armor founder Kevin Plank was reinstated as CEO, ending Stephanie Linnards' three-year turnaround plan two years early.

Stephanie Linnards has left her job as Under Armour's CEO after more than a year. Noah Wilman for Fortune

Stephanie Linnards had less time than expected to fix Under Armour's many problems.

Linnards, formerly the No. 2 executive at Marriott International, left the global hotel chain last year to become CEO of Under Armour. Feb. 27, 2023. He took on struggling sportswear—and, of course, the company said today, will step down as CEO at the end of this month, a year after he took the job. He had said it would take three years to implement his turnaround strategy for the company.

Kevin Plank, Under Armour's controversial founder and controlling shareholder, is set to return as its CEO effective April 1. The latest “boomerang” CEO will return to his former job (a group that includes Disney's Bob Iger and Starbucks' Howard Schultz) as the company's fourth CEO in four years. He first “stepped down” from the job to become executive chairman in January 2020, and continues to hold 65% of the company's voting shares.

Under Armour, however, did not give a reason for the sudden CEO change, and a spokeswoman declined to comment. A LinkedIn post, Blank thanked Linnards for his contributions to Under Armour: “He helped advance the company in many important ways, including enhancing our leadership in manufacturing, design, supply chain, consumer loyalty and territory management,” he wrote. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but his leadership has helped put us on the right path to success.”

Running Under Armor was always going to be a breakthrough job—and Linnards had his eyes wide open. “I believe in taking calculated risks,” she told me when I profiled her last summer Good luck.

“He hit the ground running and launched a clearly articulated three-year strategy that sets us up for strategic growth,” Plank said. Good luck, in an email comment at the time. “I couldn't be more excited to have her at Under Armor and to work with her every day.”

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But the challenges Linnards faced were steep: Under Armor struggled to grow revenue or profit from its early heyday. Its share price has slumped from its 2015 peak, and retail experts call its brand identity confusing.

Meanwhile, Plank's politics and personal life continued to make his company unflattering at times Headlines. Even after stepping down as CEO, Plank remains an inescapable presence at the company, 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 numbered either 96 (the year he was founded under Armor) or 37 (for KP's college football jersey number),” I wrote at the time. “A hallway at headquarters is adorned with a giant photo of that jersey, next to blown-up versions of Plank's early Under Armor business cards, with #inspo phrases like 'Humble & Hungry Beginnings'.”

Founder Kevin Blank has been a big presence at Under Armour.

Patrick D. via Getty Images Fallon-Bloomberg

Keeping a charismatic founder could be a problem for a new CEO, says Neil Sanders, global data retail analyst covering Under Armour. “Even if someone else is CEO, Kevin Blank is still there,” he says. “It's still a founder-led company … and most CEOs don't want backseat drivers.”

Linnards hired several new senior executives and launched a rewards program to boost customer loyalty, a strategy that didn't yield immediate results: Under Armour's most recent quarterly earnings 6 percent fell From a year ago.

“He inherited a brand that had always had a lot of problems,” Sanders says. “One year is not enough time to make a difference.”

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Investors initially cheered Blanc's earnings: The company's shares rose in after-hours trading, before sliding down again. Under Armor announced that when Plank becomes CEO, former PIMCO CEO Mohamed A. El-Erian will become non-executive chairman of its board.

“As I look back on my past year at Under Armour, I am extremely proud of the great talent we have brought into the company,” Linnards said. wrote in an email For Armor employees. “We wish the executive leadership team and all of you great success in the years ahead,” Blank added.

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