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NEW YORK — In another dramatic management shift at Nike Inc., Mindy Grossman has stepped down as global vice president of apparel to become chief executive officer of retailing at Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp.
IAC owns the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, Evite and several other interactive businesses. Grossman will be ceo of IAC Retailing, which includes HSN, Cornerstone Brands, Shoebuy and IAC’s international retailing operations, and had sales last year of $3.05 billion. The online commerce company had overall sales of $5.75 billion. Grossman replaces Tom McInerney, who was promoted to IAC’S chief financial officer, and she starts in the position on May 1. The company in recent years has been making the transition from a holding company to an operating company, Diller said recently in a statement.
“Mindy has proven success in running a multbillion-dollar business and has outstanding instincts in merchandising, strategy and brand building,” Doug Lebda, IAC president and chief operating officer, said in an interview Monday. “She is a leading talent in the industry.”
Grossman, 48, was Nike’s highest-ranking female executive, and under her direction the company has been aggressively building its apparel business, specifically its women’s offerings. In the six years since she joined the Beaverton, Ore., firm, Grossman has developed and cultivated a team of executives to oversee the growth of its apparel business, which had sales in 2005 of $4 billion, accounting for 32 percent of Nike brand revenues.
Grossman is being replaced by Roger Wyett, 49, who worked in various executive positions at Nike from 1995 to 2000, when he left, only to rejoin last year. His elevation to vice president of apparel is a choice that some industry watchers said they found surprising. Since rejoining Nike, Wyett has been president and chief operating officer of the firm’s Hurley International division, which is an actions sports and youth brand that has estimated sales of about $100 million.
“It’s a very odd choice of a replacement since apparel is such an important of the company’s growth strategy now,” said John Shanley, an analyst with Susquehanna Research Group. “The whole decision on her replacement was somewhat abrupt and not normally Nike’s way of doing things. They usually take a well-thought-out strategy to fill holes in their management team. Everyone is scratching their heads since no one has really heard of this guy. He doesn’t have much of a track record with retailers.”
Nike said Wyett has more than 25 years’ experience in the apparel industry at Puma USA and Walt Disney Co.
Nike executives and Grossman declined to comment further than a statement from Charlie Denson, president of the Nike brand, who said: “Roger brings with him a wealth of apparel and branding experience gained both within Nike Inc. and with other leading global brands….Roger is a deeply respected leader who will provide a great vision for the continued growth of our global Nike brand apparel business.”
Nike has had a tumultuous year on the executive front. Ceo William D. Perez stepped down in January after 13 months on the job. Scott Olivet, who headed the company’s fast-growing “other brands” division, which includes Starter, Cole Haan and Hurley, left in October to become ceo at Oakley Inc.
Grossman has had a tough trail to blaze in Nike’s historically male-oriented culture. “Initially, there was some underlying fear in some camps that if Nike focused and connected with women, it would lose its edge with its core male teen consumer,” she said at the WWD/DNR CEO Summit in November. “The predominately male culture that existed didn’t understand that we could have two sides of the brand.”
Some industry watchers also speculated that Grossman wanted more responsibilities at the company and was interested in the top Nike brand job, which became available late last year when co-president Mark Parker was elevated to ceo of Nike Inc., replacing Perez. That position went to Denson, who had been the other co-president.
There had been speculation that Grossman was looking to leave Nike.
“Six years is a long time for an outsider at Nike,” said Matt Powell of Princeton Retail Analysis, who follows the athletic business. “After a certain amount of time, executives do what they wanted to do and are looking to move on, and that may have been the case with Grossman. There is no question that she had a strong impact on the company. For the first 25 years at Nike, it was a shoe company trying to make clothes. She showed them how to be an apparel company.”
Shanley said he was concerned that Grossman would take Nike apparel executives with her to her new position. When she joined in 2000, she brought in some key executives who have been instrumental in building the women’s business, he noted.
The timing of Grossman’s departure is also notable because two key Nike competitors — Adidas and Reebok — are now combined, and that firm is trying aggressively to catch up to Nike. One key strategy of the combined group is to elevate and pump up Reebok’s apparel operation.
Grossman’s resignation comes as Nike is focused on its women’s business. The company recently launched a major innerwear initiative of performance bras and underwear for fall. The current Nike women’s athletic product in stores this season is among its most fashion-forward and features shrugs, corsets and skirts in performance fabrics.
Grossman, a Seventh Avenue veteran who headed Polo Jeans before joining Nike in 2000, is known for her merchandising prowess and fashion expertise, as well as her interest and experience in textiles and fabrics. Under her direction, Nike rolled out new NikeWomen stores, launched NikeWomen catalogues and started a new division called Fitness Dance that houses some of the more directional Nike fashion items.
Linda Mulcair, an apparel buyer at Paragon Sports in New York, said Nike’s women’s business has “come a long way” in recent years and said the store does a large business with the brand.
“I am loving what they are doing with fitness dance and we combine pieces from the fitness, fitness dance and tennis collections,” she noted.
Hal Reiter, president and ceo of executive search firm Herbert Mines Associates, said, “Mindy was a trailblazer at Nike. She was the first real fashion executive they had who wasn’t homegrown. Even though she still dressed New York, she believed in Beaverton, and she fit in really well. The bicoastal thing has got to be exhausting.”
Nike shares closed down 1.79 percent at $81.81 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.