Who Are the Most Powerful People in the Sneaker Industry?

Dick Johnson Foot Locker
Foot Locker president, chairman and CEO Dick Johnson at FN Summit.
George Chinsee.

The athletic footwear market is a dominant force within the industry. Check out the people on this year’s Power 100 list who are raising the bar in sneakers.

Dick Johnson, 58 CEO & President; Foot Locker Inc.

Don’t tell Johnson retailers have it hard. He’s positioned the athletic behemoth to cash in on consumers’ continued craze for kicks. Performance and casual styles, as well as killer collabs — with healthy competition between brands — helped Foot Locker register a 7 percent rise in Q2 net income compared with a year earlier, to $127 million. A new flagship on 34th Street in New York helped drive traffic as well.

Mark Parker, 60 Chairman & CEO; Nike

After Phil Knight stepped down in June, Nike continued to march forward under Parker. The athletic giant pushed boundaries with marketing, releasing an ad with transgender athlete Chris Mosier, and with sneakers, unveiling its self-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0. But after announcing its Q1 earnings, analysts speculated Nike’s grip on athletics is under pressure from two surging brands: Adidas and Under Armour.

Robert Greenberg, 74 Michael Greenberg, 53 Chairman & CEO; President; Skechers USA Inc.

Skechers is relishing in the casual athletic sweet spot, producing consistent revenue growth all year and hitting $877.8 million in sales in Q2. For the first time, international markets became the firm’s largest revenue segment, and the Greenbergs rolled out a mega-expansion to their European Distribution Center. Skechers added Howie Long and Ozzie Smith to an increasingly star-studded endorsement roster.

Adidas North America Mark King Adidas Group North America President Mark King. Courtesy of Adidas.

Kasper Rorsted, 54 Mark King, 57 CEO; Adidas Group; President; Adidas Group North America

King stated Adidas’
 U.S. business needed
an overhaul in 2015. A year later, he’s delivered. Must-have performance and lifestyle offerings hit retail (Ultra Boost Uncaged, NMD), and an Originals flagship opened in New York.
 If that wasn’t enough, Adidas’ Q2 sales grew 32 percent in North America, bolstered
by releases with Kanye WestPharrell Williams and Rita Ora.

Jim Davis, 73 Rob DeMartini, 55 Chairman; CEO
& President; 
New Balance

Building off a strong 2015, New Balance continued to impress with strong showings in athletics and athleisure. Its 3-D printed running shoe, Zante Generate, arrived in April, and the execs’ moves to collab with retailers and designers (Concepts, Todd Snyder) kept sneakerheads satisfied. A new Boston flagship and gold medal performance from Jenny Simpson in Rio didn’t hurt, either.

François-Henri Pinault, 54 Björn Gulden, 51 Chairman & CEO; Kering; CEO; Puma SE

It’s been a buoyant 2016 for Kering with net income rising 6.9 percent year-on-year, thanks to its healthy luxury business — driven by Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, in particular — and revenues powered by Puma; the athletic label continues to benefit from its hot Rihanna Fenty collaboration. The swift appointment of Anthony Vaccarello to succeed Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent also sent out a positive message.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank Kevin Plank, shot exclusively for Footwear News. Axel Dupeux

Kevin Plank, 44 Chairman & CEO; Under Armour

Plank’s firm turned 
20 this year, and the founder made more masterful moves. Among them: a distribution deal to be in 1,100 Kohl’s stores, a new hub for design innovation, more offshoots for Stephen Curry’s basketball shoes (although the “Chef” was largely ridiculed) and a pricey, fashion-driven sportswear line by Tim Coppens.

Sam Sato, 52 CEO; The Finish Line

Sato took control in February, and for three consecutive quarters, Finish Line scored better-than-expected earnings, with revenues landing at $509.4 million in Q2. The company made a push to nab more on-trend product and is modernizing its stores, debuting a new format in 15 doors in Q2.

Edward Stack, 61 Chairman & CEO; Dick’s Sporting Goods

As a troubled sporting goods landscape took down some of the industry’s top dogs, Stack swooped in to capitalize on new opportunities. Snapping up bankrupt Sports Authority’s intellectual property, the CEO sought to set Dick’s up for unprecedented future growth. Liquidation sales pressured the firm briefly this year, but the company handily topped Q2 estimates, with sales of $2 billion.

Jim Weber, 56 CEO & President; Brooks Sports

Runners and sneakerheads continued to buy Brooks in 2016, including key performance franchise updates and must-have collabs (Bait, 24 Kilates). But Weber also launched Brooks’ first TV commercial (titled “The Rundead”) and a new marketing campaign (“Live the Way You Run. Run Happy”). Additionally, Brooks sent its decathlon star Jeremy Taiwo to compete in Rio.

Gene McCarthy, 60 President & CEO; Asics Americas

In McCarthy’s first full year, Asics introduced styles and technologies to satisfy avid runners and younger consumers. The fashion-meets-function FuzeX arrived in January, and its FlytFoam midsole adorned multiple key performance runners. It also acquired fitness tracking app RunKeeper and produced an acclaimed Gel Lyte III in collaboration with Pensole Design Academy and Foot Locker.

Truman Kim, 51 Chairman; K-Swiss Global Brands

Acquisitions defined
 K-Swiss in 2015, and 
executive movement
 defined 2016. In January, president and CEO
 of Global Brands Larry Remington retired, and Barney Waters became the president of its namesake brand. The next month, Palladium had a new president: Christophe Mortemousque. Its HQ is also on the move: By January, the KSGB home will be the historic Pac Mutual Building in downtown Los Angeles.

kanye West Saint Pablo Chicago Kanye West performing in Chicago on Oct. 8. AP Images.

Kanye West, 39 Designer; Kanye West

Following his Shoe of the Year win for the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 sneaker at FN’s Achievement Awards in December, West further solidified his partnership with the German giant in June. The rapper and athletic brand inked a long-term deal that includes plans to expand beyond the lifestyle focus into performance gear; a Yeezy Boost 350 football cleat was released in September.

Gene Yoon, 71 Jon Epstein, 61 Global Chairman & CEO; Fila; President; Fila North America

Fila had a resurgence in 2016, relying heavily on its heritage to become
a consumer favorite. The label employed rap legend Nas to curate a “Ghostbusters”-themed collection, and delivered several must-have collabs (Sweet Chick, Alumni). But athleisure alone didn’t bolster Fila’s year; the execs also signed tennis standout John Isner.