Academy Sports + Outdoors Announces CEO Transition, Steve Lawrence to Take Reins

Ken Hicks will step down from his role as CEO and president of Academy Sports + Outdoors as part of a planned succession plan, effective June 1. He will remain in his role as executive chairman of the company’s board of directors.

Academy chief merchandising officer Steve Lawrence will transition to the CEO and will continue to serve as CMO until a successor is named. EVP and chief financial officer Michael Mullican will assume the role of president. EVP of retail operations Sam Johnson will assume additional responsibilities for the real estate, construction and store design functions.

“It has been an enormous privilege leading Academy as CEO over the past five years,” Hicks said in a statement. “Having known Academy since I was growing up in Houston, this has been a dream job that has allowed me to fill my passion for retail and connect with our team members and customers.”

Hicks has served as Academy’s chairman, president and CEO since May 2018. He joined the board in May 2017. He previously served as president and CEO of Foot Locker Inc. between 2009 and 2010, as its CEO, president and executive chairman between 2010 and 2014 and as executive chairman between 2014 and 2015.  He also served roles at J.C. Penney, Payless ShoeSource and more companies.

During Hicks’ tenure, Academy embarked on an aggressive store expansion plan, opening 28 new stores and growing net sales from $4.8 billion in 2018 to $6.4 billion in 2022. Hicks also oversaw Academy’s IPO in 2020 that raised $270 million.

Lawrence, who takes the reins as Academy’s seventh CEO since its founding in 1938, joined the company in 2019 as CMO.

“I am excited to lead our dedicated team members, who enable Academy to offer our customers the broad, differentiated, value assortment with the excellent service and experience that they expect,” Lawrence said in a statement. “I look forward to working with our strong team, who managed our business through several years of extraordinary transformation, growth and performance.”

At its investor day earlier this month, Academy announced a goal to achieve $10 billion in revenue by 2027, with a net income margin of 10%. This goal will be accomplished by opening new stores and investing in the company’s omnichannel and existing business.

The ambitious targets came shortly after Academy reported that net sales decreased 5.6% to $6.40 billion in fiscal year 2022. Adjusted net income for the year decreased 9.9% to $645.8 million.

Academy is aiming to open 120 to 140 new stores by 2027, expanding its store base by 50% in existing and new markets. The chain currently operates more than 265 stores and is targeting between 13 and 15 store openings in 2023 after opening nine stores in 2022. In the long-term, Academy sees the potential to grow its store count to 800 while balancing growth in existing and new locations.

The new stores are expected to generate between $2.4 billion and $2.8 billion in revenue for Academy by 2027.

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