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All change! Industry big hitters feel the heat in turbulent 2023


It may have been because of under-performance, poor results, cost saving, resignations or simply retirements, but there’s no escaping that a significant number of industry leaders found themselves out of a job during the turbulent trading year that was 2023.

It began early in the year as Vista Outdoor said goodbye to Casey Sheahan, CEO of the recently acquired Simms Fishing Products, naming Derek Tarlecki, previously Chief Integration Officer, as President. Sheahan, who had led the company since late 2017, announced his retirement just months after the deal went through.

In April, Academy Sports + Outdoors shifted Chairman, President and CEO Ken Hicks to Executive Chairman, with EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Lawrence becoming CEO, and Michael Mullican, EVP and CFO, taking over as President. The moves were part of a planned succession process, said Academy.

In the same month, Dick’s Sporting Goods Chief Marketing Officer Ed Plummer retired and was replaced by Emily Silver from PepsiCo.

In possibly the biggest move of the year, Pure Fishing replaced CEO Harlan Kent (main picture) with former Igloo CEO Dave Allen. Kent remains as a Board Director and Special Project Advisor.

In May, retail colossus Walmart promoted Latriece Watkins to EVP, Chief Merchandising Officer, announcing that the former occupant of the role, Charles Redfield, would move into an advisory position supporting the company’s US business.

Academy Sports was back in the news in June as Matt McCabe was promoted to EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer, succeeding Steve Lawrence, who had been named CEO the previous month.

Also in June, industry giant Rather Outdoors revealed that Paul Reeves had stood down from his position as President Europe, saying that the reasons for his departure were personal. Reeves came to the fore of the UK industry with Fox international, which was acquired by Rather Outdoors in 2019.

Zebco Europe Managing Director Frerk Petersen became another early summer casualty when he was released by the German company’s new owner, Rather Outdoors. The Zebco site in Tostved had been closed down just weeks earlier.

And another industry veteran to make an honourable exit was Daiwa Sports UK Managing Director Robin Morley, who had been with the Japanese reel brand for more than 33 years.

Back at Simms, President Derek Tarlecki moved over to make room for new President Jordan Judd. Simms owner Vista Outdoor recruited Judd from Salomon North America, where he had been president and general manager since early 2020.

The rapid reshuffle at Academy Sport + Outdoors continued in July as Steve Lawrence made way for Michael Mullican as President, who in turn was succeeded by Carl Ford as EVP and CFO.

Walmart continued to make senior changes in August, saying that Judith McKenna, President and CEO of Walmart International, would retire and be replaced by Kath McLay.

In September, another of the industry’s big hitters, Rapala VMC Corporation, parted company with CFO Jan-Elof Cavander, who would reportedly be seeking new challenges after 13 years at the Finnish company. His departure came only three months after the departure of CEO Nicholas Cederström Warchalowski. 

October arrived with more musical chairs at Academy Sports + Outdoors, where Michael Mullican stepped down from his President’s role after barely three months, to be replaced in the hot seat by Sam Johnson, EVP of retail operations.

November then saw the departure of Ralph Dijk from Pure Fishing after ten years. His roles at the world’s biggest manufacture of fishing tackle included Director of Global Brands and Marketing Director EMEA.

And the big-name departures continued right up to the end of the year with the news that Jim Coble, who brought a left-field, exciting and fresh approach to the industry when he founded 13 Fishing, would be ‘exploring new horizons’ after selling his remaining 40% share in the company to Rapala.

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