PARIS Puma SE announced on Thursday it had appointed Björn Gulden as chief executive officer of Puma, succeeding Franz Koch, as its French parent Kering steps up its efforts to improve the fortunes of the German activewear firm.

The Norwegian native was managing director of European footwear retailer Deichmann from 2000 to 2011, also heading its U.S. subsidiaries Rack Room Shoes and Off Broadway Shoes as ceo and president. Most recently, he was ceo of Danish jewelry brand Pandora.

Jean-François Palus, chairman of the Puma administrative board and group managing director of Kering, said he was certain that Gulden was “the perfect fit” to guide Puma through its ongoing restructuring efforts.

“With Björn Gulden, we are pleased to have an experienced sports industry expert with proven leadership quality and know-how in managing sports and footwear brands taking up the reins of Puma,” Palus stated.

Gulden said he looked forward to the challenge. “Puma enjoys an enormous potential, both in the performance and in the lifestyle markets, and I am eager to help unlock this potential and further grow the company in the years to come,” he stated.

A former professional football player, Gulden studied business administration in Norway and obtained an MBA from the Babson Graduate School of Business in Boston.

Puma announced last December that Koch would step down as ceo
“by mutual agreement” at the end of March 2013, after less than two years in the role.

His departure marked the end of an era at Puma, for two decades associated with Jochen Zeitz, the architect of its transformation from a struggling sporting goods maker into a global lifestyle brand straddling sneakers for high-performance athletes like sprinter Usain Bolt and casual city sportswear.

In his 22 years at the Herzogenaurach-based brand, Zeitz helped sales climb from around 250 million euros a year to more than 3 billion euros in 2011. He also championed sustainable development, both at Puma and later at Kering as a whole.

But Puma has hit a rough patch, with its profitability declining over the last two years.