STOUGHTON, Mass. -- Reebok International Ltd., the third-largest U.S. maker of athletic shoes, said yesterday that Carl Yankowski, president and chief executive officer of the Reebok brand, quit to become chief executive of an unidentified company.
Reebok International Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Paul Fireman will assume Yankowski's duties. Yankowski, 51, joined Reebok 14 months ago from Sony Corp. His resignation is effective immediately.
Yankowski was named in August 1998 to oversee licensing, sales, marketing and advertising of Reebok-brand items, as well as development of shoes and clothing. He replaced Robert Meers, who had been Reebok-brand president for three years.
"He is part of the revolving door in the Reebok organization," said analyst John Shanley of First Security Van Kasper, who rates Reebok shares a "hold."
Yankowski came to Reebok with no experience in the athletic shoe and clothing industry, and took several months to get up to speed. He took over the struggling brand when its popularity had "plateaued," and U.S. demand for athletic shoes and clothing had contracted, Shanley said.
Declining orders from retailers led to Reebok losing market share to larger rivals Nike Inc. and Adidas-Salomon AG, and smaller companies such as K-Swiss Inc. and New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc., Shanley said.
In a conference call with analysts, Fireman said he will focus on revitalizing the Reebok brand and will delegate some of his current duties to other executives.
Fireman, who led the brand 12 years ago, said sales should show improvement in the second half of next year.
"We're starting to close the gap," he said. "This is a very difficult market. It's very competitive."
Reebok shares fell 68.75 cents to $8.6875 yesterday. The stock has dropped from a 52-week high of $22.75 in May.