Steve Rendle has been promoted to senior vice president of the Americas at VF Corp. in a move that catapults him to the top of the list of possible successors to Eric Wiseman as chief executive officer of the largest U.S.-based apparel company.
This story first appeared in the April 9, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The move also recognizes both the dominance of VF’s Outdoor & Action Sports coalition and streamlines the existing reporting structure at the Greensboro, N.C.-based firm.
Rendle, 54, has been vice president of VF and group president of Outdoor & Action Sports in the Americas since 2011 following two years as president of the Outdoor Americas group, comprised of The North Face, JanSport, Eagle Creek and Lucy. He now adds responsibility for the group’s other coalitions — Jeanswear, Imagewear, Sportswear and Contemporary — in North, South and Central America.
His previous responsibilities have been split between Patrik Frisk, who has been promoted to coalition president for Outdoors Americas, and Kevin Bailey, promoted to coalition president for Action Sports Americas and Vans.
Rendle continues to report to Wiseman, VF’s chairman, president and ceo, while Frisk and Bailey continue to report to Rendle.
Scott Baxter, Karen Murray and Susan Kellogg, who’d previously reported directly to Wiseman, will now report to Rendle. Baxter is vice president of VF and group president of Jeanswear, Imagewear and South America. Murray and Kellogg are presidents of the company’s Sportswear and Contemporary Brands coalitions, respectively.
Wiseman, 58, described Rendle’s track record at VF as “outstanding” and predicted his “consumer-focused leadership will play a crucial role in helping to build sustainable, long-term growth for VF.”
Wiseman is a robust and active ceo, but he himself ascended to the top spots at VF after his predecessor, Mackey McDonald, retired in 2008 at age 61. McDonald succeeded Lawrence Pugh as ceo in 1995, when Pugh was 62, according to definitive proxies filed by the company. Pugh retired as chairman in 1998.
Wiseman was traveling in Asia on Tuesday and unavailable for comment.
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Asked if Rendle’s promotion positioned him as Wiseman’s likely successor, Bob Shearer, VF’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, quickly replied, “Eric isn’t going anywhere.”
Shearer, who heads VF’s mergers and acquisitions group and has engineered many of its purchases in tandem with Wiseman, would be considered a possible successor himself, although, at 62, he is the senior member of VF’s top management team. Both he and Wiseman already are eligible for early retirement. VF’s customary retirement age is 65.
Whatever his future may hold, Rendle has been at the center of one of the most successful acquisitions and integrations in the company’s history. He came to VF when it acquired The North Face for $25.4 million in 2000. At the time, he was vice president of sales for The North Face, which had annual sales of about $240 million, and was promoted to president in 2004. In 2012, its sales reached $1.9 billion, making it VF’s single largest brand.
Shearer told WWD that the revised executive structure “closely follows the one we have in international, where Karl Heinz Salzburger has responsibility for all the coalitions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. This structure goes back to 2010, when we had $7.7 billion in revenues. We’re a lot larger now and we’re aiming for $17.3 billion in 2017. We needed some room between Eric and the presidents, some common ownership between the presidents and the ceo.”
Salzburger is vice president of VF and group president of its international unit. Although his age couldn’t be confirmed, he was 56 when VF filed its annual report in late February. Like Rendle, he came to VF with its acquisition of The North Face and has been heavily involved in the development of the Outdoor & Action Sports Group outside the Americas as well as in the expansion of VF’s retail initiatives and its moves in Asia.
Already dominant in 2010, Outdoor & Action Sports has only grown in importance. In 2010, it generated $3.2 billion in sales globally, 41.6 percent of the corporate total. Last year, between organic growth and the acquisition of Timberland, that figure had nearly doubled to $6.38 billion, 55.9 percent of VF’s total revenues of $11.42 billion, with operating income of $1.11 billion accounting for 57.3 percent of total coalition profits of $1.93 billion. International sales accounted for 38 percent of VF revenues last year, the majority in Europe.
Outdoor & Action Sports houses three of VF’s five “billion-dollar brands.” In 2012, in addition to The North Face’s $1.9 billion contribution, Vans and Timberland each had sales of $1.5 billion, while Wrangler and Lee, in the Jeanswear group, were responsible for revenues of $1.6 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively. VF hasn’t disclosed sales by brand for 2013.
Frisk, who has headed Timberland as president since VF completed its $2.3 billion acquisition of the company in 2011, will now oversee a brand portfolio consisting of The North Face, JanSport, Lucy and SmartWool in addition to Timberland. A successor as president of Timberland is expected to be appointed in “the coming months,” VF said.
Bailey, who has served as president of Vans Americas, will oversee Vans as well as VF’s Reef and Eagle Creek brands. There are currently no plans to name a successor as president of Vans Americas.