Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — For the third time in less than a week, Nike has promoted one of its seasoned executives to the rank of president.
The sneaker giant named Gary DeStefano as president of U.S. operations, a new post. Most recently, he served as vice president of the brand’s Asia Pacific region.
Last week, Nike elevated Charles Denson and Mark Parker, both to the title of president of the Nike brand. Denson, who was previously vice president for the U.S., specializes in sales and management. Parker, the former vice president of global footwear, is known for his expertise in research, development and marketing,
Denson, Parker and DeStefano have each worked for the company for more than 22 years.
DeStefano, 44, assumes Denson’s former responsibilities and now reports to him. DeStefano continues to be based at the company’s corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., where he will focus on the brand’s domestic apparel, footwear and equipment businesses.
The new management regime has not been lined up to replace chairman, president and chief executive officer Phil Knight, according to a Nike spokeswoman. She quoted Knight as having said, repeatedly, “I plan to die at Nike — just not anytime soon.”
Nike aims to “move rather quickly” in naming replacements for DeStefano’s and Parker’s former posts, the spokeswoman said.
In recent weeks, Wall Street has been scrutinizing, and in some cases downgrading Nike stock, after the company announced third-quarter earnings should come in about one-third below earlier estimates. Nike’s third-quarter earnings will be released Tuesday.
The spokeswoman said the changes have no bearing on the role of Tom Clarke, who served as president and chief operating officer, until being named president of new business ventures last June. But some industry sources speculate that Nike is gearing up for the departure of Clarke, who used to be seen as Knight’s “go-to” man.
John Shanley, senior vice president of Wells Fargo Van Kasper, said the changes reflect Nike’s corporate strategy of rotating senior executives to handle different functions and become better managers.
He noted that DeStefano did “a nice job” in turning around Nike’s Asia Pacific business.
“This is a normal progression that may have been accelerated to put more power behind U.S. footwear to get that business turned around,” Shanley said.
Sales of footwear in the U.S. have slowed considerably due in part to male teenagers’ interest in skateboard-type shoes, Shanley said, noting they are the most influential consumers for footwear. The domestic footwear market is only expected to increase by 2 percent this year, he added.
Nike controls an estimated 44 percent of the footwear market.
In a statement released Thursday, Knight said DeStefano’s “experience and talents are exactly what’s needed for the challenge and opportunities existing in the U.S. market.” Following the Denson and Parker announcement, Margaret Mager, a footwear and apparel analyst, wrote in a brief for Goldman Sachs, “Although there have been some successful hires from outside Nike, the company has often been most successful promoting Nike veterans into key operating positions.”