John Donahoe (right) and Mark Parker (left) Nike

Nike Taps EBay Veteran John Donahoe to Succeed Parker as CEO

Oct. 22, 2019
New chief, already a board member, takes the reins on Jan. 13.

Nike Inc. (IW 500/35) Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker will hand the reins to former EBay Inc. head John Donahoe next year, entrusting an e-commerce veteran with the job of running a $40 billion shoe-and-apparel giant that’s increasingly relying on data and technology to keep its edge.

Donahoe will take the role of president and CEO at Nike on Jan. 13, with Parker remaining in charge of the board as executive chairman. Parker, who has been a Nike employee for 40 years, said in a memo to employees that he would remain closely involved with product design and marketing.

“To be clear, I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m not sick. There are no issues I’m not sharing. I strongly believe the best way for us to evolve and grow as a company is to bring in a phenomenal talent to join our team who has long been part of the Nike family.”

Parker turns 65 next year, and succession has been a big question at Nike for years. In Donahoe, the company gets an executive that has served on Nike’s board since 2014 but also brings an outside perspective.

He’s currently president and CEO of ServiceNow Inc., and chairman of PayPal Holdings Inc. Donahoe previously served as president and CEO of EBay and head of Bain & Co.

“I’ve been proud to be connected to Nike through my role on the board and now look forward to being a full-time member of the team,” Donahoe, 59, said in a statement.

Nike investors took the change in stride. After an initial dip and then a gain, the shares were little changed in extended trading on Tuesday. The stock was up 29% this year through the close.

Misconduct Scandal

The decision to pick a leader outside Nike’s executive ranks followed a shake-up over misconduct last year. Trevor Edwards, once seen as a CEO candidate, abruptly stepped down last year amid a review of sexist behavior at the company. Other executives were ousted as the world’s largest athletic brand tried to burnish its image.

Parker, who has been CEO since 2006, was dogged by other recent controversies. Documents released by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency showed that he was directly aware of an experiment committed by Alberto Salazar, coach and co-founder of the Nike Oregon Project, which led to Salazar’s four-year ban from track & field. Parker has defended his involvement -- and Salazar’s -- and recently made the decision to shutter the Oregon Project after 19 years.

Tech Push

At the same time, Nike has felt pressure to show it’s a more of a tech company than a shoe seller.

It recently unveiled its store of the future in New York, a retail experience full of new technology that can only be unlocked by members using the Nike app. The company also recently unveiled a new basketball shoe, which tracks data on the user and whose laces can be tightened through the application.

Earlier this year, Nike purchased Boston-based data-science firm Celect, a move that the company said would bolster its understanding of consumer patterns. That acquisition came a year after Nike bought Invertex Ltd., an Israeli computer-vision startup. That technology was eventually unveiled as the driver of Nike Fit, an expansion of the Nike app that lets customers measure their feet at home.

The common thread throughout all this is the Nike app. Nike members spend three times more at than guests do, a metric that Nike executives attribute to the company’s ability to better serve those that they know the most about.

The CEO announcement mirrors a similar reshuffling at Under Armour Inc., one of Nike’s main competitors, just hours before. Under Armour founder Kevin Plank is stepping aside as CEO at the end of the year, but -- just like Parker -- will assume the executive chairman title.

By Nick Turner and Eben Novy-Williams

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Licensed content from Bloomberg, copyright 2016.

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