Academy Sports and Outdoors, Inc. announced that, as a result of a planned succession process, the following changes to its executive leadership team will be effective on June 1, 2023.
Ken Hicks, the retailer’s chairman, president and CEO, will transition to executive chairman of Academy’s Board of Directors.
Steve Lawrence, EVP and chief merchandising officer will become CEO and a member of Academy’s Board. Lawrence will continue to serve as CMO until a successor is appointed.
Michael Mullican, EVP and chief financial officer, will become company president and assume additional responsibilities for strategic planning, logistics & supply chain, legal, compliance, and risk management functions, in addition to his existing financial planning & analysis, accounting, treasury, tax, internal audit, investor relations, loss prevention, and customer insights & strategy responsibilities. Mullican will continue as CFO until a successor is selected.
Sam Johnson, EVP of retail operations, assumes additional responsibilities for Academy’s real estate, construction and store design functions.
As executive chairman, Hicks will remain involved at Academy, continuing to lead its Board of Directors and working with Lawrence to support the execution of the retailer’s recently announced long-range strategic plan and ensure a smooth leadership transition.
Ken Hicks has served as Academy’s chairman, president and CEO since May 2018 and on its Board since May 2017. Before joining Academy, he held senior positions at Foot Locker, J.C. Penney, Payless ShoeSource, Home Shopping Network, May Department Stores Company, and McKinsey & Company. Under his leadership, Academy opened 28 new stores, grew net sales from $4.8 billion in 2018 to $6.4 billion in 2022, developed a profitable e-commerce business, improved its gross margin rate from 28.6 percent in 2018 to 34.6 percent in 2022, grew net income from $58.5 million in 2018 to $628.0 million in 2022, and grew diluted earnings per share from $3.79 in 2020 to $7.49 in 2022. Academy also achieved important milestones during his tenure, including an initial public offering (IPO) in October 2020 that raised $270 million, a debt refinancing in November 2020, and the company named into the Fortune 500 in 2021.
Since its IPO, Academy has returned more than $2 billion to stakeholders through cash dividends, debt reduction and share repurchases, and Academy’s market capitalization has increased from approximately $1.1 billion to more than $5 billion.
Steve Lawrence becomes the seventh CEO in Academy’s 85-year history. He joined the retailer in February 2019 and has served as EVP & CMO responsible for buying, merchandising, planning & allocation (MP&A), private brand, marketing & advertising, communications, and community relations functions. As CMO, Lawrence was a key member of Academy’s executive leadership team with positive growth across each of its four merchandise divisions (including achieving company-record merchandise sales and gross profit in 2021 and industry-leading merchandising margins in 2021 and 2022) and implemented improvements in the company’s MP&A and marketing capabilities and performance.
Lawrence has over 30 years of retail business experience and previously held leadership positions at Francesca’s, Stage Stores, J.C. Penney, and Foley’s.
Michael Mullican has served as Academy’s EVP & CFO since January 2018, responsible for financial planning & analysis, accounting, treasury, tax, internal audit, investor relations, loss prevention, real estate & construction, and customer insights & strategy functions. As CFO, Mullican has been a key member of the retailer’s executive leadership team and helped lead the company to record growth, profitability, cash flow, and return on invested capital. He also led Academy’s s IPO and debt refinancing in 2020 and developed its inaugural capital allocation strategy in 2022.
Mullican was Academy’s EVP and General Counsel from February 2017 to January 2018. He has over 20 years of retail business and legal experience and previously held leadership positions at Meijer and Family Dollar.
Sam Johnson has served as EVP and retail operations since April 2017, responsible for store operations, store optimization, regional merchants, and customer care functions. He led the transformation of the retailer’s stores and customer service, leading to record customer service levels in 2022. Johnson has over 30 years of retail business experience and previously held senior positions for hhgregg, Inc. and Sears.
Hicks said, “It has been an enormous privilege leading Academy as CEO over the past five years. Having known Academy since I was growing up in Houston, this has been a dream job that has allowed me to fill my passion for retail and connect with our team members and customers. I have been fortunate to work with the best team in retail to lead Academy through significant changes, challenges, transformation, and improvement. Every level of our organization delivered and contributed to our success. I would like to thank our 22,000 great team members, who have been focused on building our company while serving our customers and providing fun for all, and our Board of Directors for their unwavering support. I look forward to continuing my leadership role on the Board and working with Steve to ensure a seamless transition and the successful execution of Academy’s new, long-range plan.
“With Academy solidly positioned for the future, I am confident that it is the right time for Steve to become Academy’s next CEO. The Board and I have thoughtfully planned my succession, and we are confident that Academy will be in the right hands under Steve’s leadership. In the time that Steve and I have been working together at Academy, I have been consistently impressed with his dedication to our business and customers, passion and talent for retail, and outstanding leadership and contributions. Steve and I share the same mission, vision and values for Academy’s future, and we are aligned on the strategic plan we recently developed to achieve the company’s long-term goals. I am also pleased that Academy will further leverage Michael’s strong leadership, strategic talent, operational acumen, and financial expertise in his expanded role as President. Steve and Michael played integral roles over the last four years in executing Academy’s prior strategic plan, and they were both key contributors to the recent development of the new, long-range plan. I know that Steve, Michael, and Sam will work very well together towards achieving our vision to become the best sports and outdoors retailer in the country.”
Tom Nealon, Academy’s lead independent director, commented, “On behalf of the Board, I want to thank Ken for his exceptional, passionate, and committed leadership as CEO of Academy. He has transformed the company culturally, operationally, and financially. He steered Academy through many difficult challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, led the company to outstanding results that achieved many important goals, including record sales, profitability, cash flow, and return on invested capital, grown the business into a strong market position, executed a highly successful IPO, and delivered extraordinary shareholder return. Academy is well positioned for the future due to the team’s remarkable leadership. We are extremely pleased that Academy and the Board will continue to benefit from Ken’s leadership, expertise, and experience as executive chairman, and we are grateful that he will work closely with Steve and the rest of the company’s leadership team to ensure a smooth CEO transition and support the company’s execution of the new, long-range plan. The Board looks forward to a continued strong partnership with Ken and Steve in their new roles.”
Nealon added, “The Board is delighted to appoint Steve to succeed Ken as Academy’s next CEO. During our thoughtful succession planning process, the Board confirmed that Steve possesses the key elements we believe are required to lead Academy and its team members through its next phase of growth. Steve is a proven retail leader who has driven exceptional results for Academy, and we are confident that Steve is the ideal person to lead Academy into the future as its CEO.”
Lawrence stated, “It’s a true privilege to succeed Ken as Academy’s next CEO. He has transformed our company into a leading retailer and laid a strong foundation for our future. It has been a pleasure to work closely with Ken over the last four years, and I look forward to continuing our partnership as we step into our new roles. I thank the Board for their support and confidence to entrust me with the opportunity to lead our company through its next phase of growth. I am excited to lead our dedicated team members, who enable Academy to offer our customers the broad, differentiated value assortment with the excellent service and experience that they expect. I look forward to working with our strong team, who managed our business through several years of extraordinary transformation, growth and performance. Our market position, momentum, team, strategy, and potential give me confidence that Academy will continue to grow and succeed while providing fun for all as we execute the strategic initiatives we have set under our new long-range plan.”
Mullican stated, “I am proud to step into the President role at Academy during such a pivotal time in the company’s evolution. The operational and organizational improvements we have made over the past few years have successfully positioned us well for future growth. I am eager to continue advancing our strategy, to accelerate sales and profit growth through new store openings, omnichannel expansion, and to increase the productivity of existing stores and distribution centers. I look forward to working with our talented team as we take the business to even greater heights while providing fun for all our customers through broad assortments, value offerings, and excellent service.”