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Under Armour picks new CEO: Marriott executive Stephanie Linnartz

Under Armour said Wednesday that it has hired Marriott International President Stephanie Linnartz to be its next CEO, capping off a seven-month hunt for a new boss that the company hopes will grow its digital business. 

Linnartz, who has been with Marriott since 1997, was one of 60 candidates considered for the role. While athletic apparel is a big leap from the hospitality business, she was selected for her digital prowess and success in transforming the hotel chain’s online presence, Under Armour founder and Executive Chairman Kevin Plank told CNBC. 

“She’s really a learner,” Plank said. “She’s got that intellectual curiosity and she’s coming in with the point-of-view as a pro.” He said the company is leaning into its priorities of “digitization, product and brand” after a transition period of five or six years.

Linnartz, who started as a financial analyst at Marriott in 1997, will start her new job on Feb. 27.

Colin Browne has been serving as interim CEO since June after Under Armour’s previous top executive, Patrik Frisk, unexpectedly resigned in May. Browne will resume his position as chief operating officer, the company said in a news release. 

Plank said the company isn’t looking for a major change in direction and that it “really” likes the strategy currently in place, but he acknowledged the brand is “not growing as much as we want.” 

Under Armour has been seeking to build out its e-commerce operations, boost profits and compete with rival brands Nike and Lululemon as it struggles with low margins, costly litigation and a slashed fiscal year outlook

The company is banking on Linnartz’s experience leading Marriott’s multibillion-dollar digital transformation to accelerate Under Armour’s online initiatives. 

Under Armor’s new CEO Stephanie Linnartz

Courtesy: Under Armour

During her tenure at Marriott, Linnartz grew its Bonvoy loyalty program to 173 million members and delved into the sports world when she developed multi-year partnerships with the NFL, the NCAA and the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team. 

In a release Wednesday, Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano praised Linnartz as an “incredible executive.” She will leave the company Feb. 24, three days before she starts at Under Armour.

“It has been one of the most significant and best experiences of my life to build a career at Marriott,” Linnartz said in the release.

She is also a member of Home Depot’s board of directors. She will be able to bring that retail background and insight to the position, Plank said. 

Plank said he will remain as brand chief and executive chairman, and will continue to be “involved in the business in an important way.”

“It will be a partnership. She and I will be partners. We’re not hiding from that,” said Plank.

Under Armour began with humble roots in 1996. Plank, a former football player, developed the prototype for the brand’s signature moisture wicking shirt while a student at the University of Maryland and later perfected his designs out of his grandmother’s basement in Georgetown. 

By 2005, he took the Baltimore-based company public and on its first day of trading, its value doubled. 

Five years later, Under Armour had quadrupled its revenues and surpassed $1 billion.

Most recently, the company reported $1.57 billion in sales in their fiscal second quarter, up 2% from the prior year, along with a net income of $87 million. 

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