Milestone: Puma’s New Man at the Top

After the announcement late last year that CEO Franz Koch would step down from his position in March 2013, the industry wondered who would succeed him.

The question wasn’t answered until April, when Puma revealed that industry vet Björn Gulden, 47, had been named to the top post.

Most recently CEO of Danish jewelry brand Pandora, where he was credited with turning around the brand, Gulden spent 2000 to 2011 as managing director of German footwear retailer Deichmann, for which he also was CEO and president of its U.S. subsidiaries Rack Room Shoes and Off Broadway Shoes. The Norway native, a former pro soccer player in the German Bundesliga, earlier was SVP of apparel and accessories at fellow Herzogenaurach, Germany-based Adidas.

While Gulden won’t officially take his new position until July 1, Puma North America President and GM Jay Piccola said his initial, off-the-clock talks with Gulden were encouraging.

“I like the fact that he’s a shoe guy — shoe guys are always welcome at Puma,” he said. “And his expertise and knowledge of the U.S. market is very welcome.”

Analysts hailed the executive change as a sound move.

“The appointment of Björn Gulden as Puma CEO should hopefully support the execution of a strategy focused on cost reduction and brand repositioning, with a particular attention to product development in footwear, and segmentation of the offering and communication,” Citigroup analyst Thomas Chauvet wrote in a note.

And for its part, Kering said it was confident in its choice.

“Björn Gulden’s profile perfectly fits the skills and capacities that Puma needs today: He is a very experienced manager with extensive knowledge of the footwear business, as well as the sporting goods and lifestyle industry,” said Jean-François Palus, chairman of Puma and group managing director of Paris-based Kering. “He is definitely a leader [and a] very large-minded person, always open to suggestions, and a good listener, which makes him a real team player. I am convinced that he is also an imaginative person and thus will bring some fresh air to Puma, resulting in exciting product innovations for Puma customers and fans.”

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