Blake Krueger Sounds Off on New Hires

Wolverine World Wide Inc. will be well positioned to grow internationally and domestically with its new leadership team in place, the company’s president, chairman and CEO, Blake Krueger, told Footwear News.

The Rockford, Mich.-based firm announced on Monday morning that Performance Group President Jim Zwiers will assume the role of president of the company’s International Group on July 7, replacing retiring head William Brown. Wolverine also announced it had hired James Gabel, former president of Adidas Group Canada, to head the Performance Group, overseeing the Merrell, Saucony, Chaco, Cushe and Patagonia footwear brands. In addition, Wolverine brought on Andrew Simister, former president of Lacoste Footwear for Pentland Brands, as president of its Lifestyle Group, which includes Sperry Top-Sider, Keds, Hush Puppies and the Stride Rite Children’s Group.

“Jim Zwiers is the right leader at the right time,” Krueger said. “He’s been with us
 16 years and has strong relationships with all of our international partners.”

He noted that Zwiers’ history with the company will be an asset as Wolverine seeks to broaden its network of international distributors and partners to grow its newer brands, including Sperry and Saucony. “This was a role that needed to be filled from the inside,” Krueger said.

But, he added, Wolverine is excited to incorporate new perspectives from Gabel and Simister, who were the product of what he called “extensive” global searches.

“Jim Gabel is a seasoned leader and a seasoned brand builder, and he’s the perfect fit for the performance group,” Krueger said, citing Gabel’s history of managing a diverse portfolio at Adidas — including the Adidas brand, Reebok and TaylorMade-Adidas Golf — as well as his relationships with Canadian and U.S. retailers.

And Simister’s international know-how is also a critical addition, according to Krueger.

“Andy brings to us a wealth of global brand-building expertise and a global view. He’s at ease in the U.S. market and in any global market,” the CEO said. “He’s going to lead the Lifestyle Group and accelerate Sperry, Keds and Stride Rite around the world.”

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