Blake Krueger, the former CEO and longtime board member of Wolverine Worldwide Inc., will fully retire from the company on May 4.
Krueger, the current chair of the Rockford-based marketer and licenser of footwear and apparel, has served at the company for nearly 30 years in various executive positions that culminated in his role as CEO in 2007. He became board chairperson in 2010 and later retired as CEO in 2021.
Tom Long, Wolverine’s lead independent director, will replace Krueger as chairperson. Long joined Wolverine’s board in 2011 and was appointed lead independent director in 2022 after previously serving as chairperson of the compensation committee.
Company officials say the shuffle is part of a planned leadership transition as Wolverine pursues growth amid recent profit misses and brand portfolio changes.
“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to have served Wolverine Worldwide for the past 30 years, and to have played a role in the company’s successful 140-year history,” Krueger said in a statement. “I am excited about the company’s future and know that under (President and CEO Brendan Hoffman’s) leadership and the strategic guidance of (Long) and the board of directors, and with the efforts of our global team, Wolverine Worldwide and its shareholders are in great hands and well-positioned for continued growth and success.”
Under Krueger’s leadership as CEO, Wolverine (NYSE: WWW) transformed from a traditional footwear wholesaler into a consumer- and digital-focused company with a large global portfolio of footwear and lifestyle brands.
He led the company’s acquisitions of the Merrell, Saucony, Sperry, Stride Rite, Keds and Chaco brands, opening new market segments and consumer territories. Keds has since been sold to Designer Brands Inc., the parent company of footwear retailer DSW. Wolverine expects to net more than $90 million in cash with the sale and licensing agreement. Wolverine officials said last month the company will use the proceeds “to pay down debt and strengthen our capital structure.”
During Krueger’s tenure, the company also expanded its international distribution to more than 170 countries and territories, grew revenue to more than $2 billion and increased market capitalization by 30-fold.
In recent years, Wolverine has been mired in investigations and settlements stemming from historical PFAS contamination near its former dumping site in Rockford.
Despite these challenges, leadership said they aim to build off Krueger’s legacy going forward.
“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with and learn from (Krueger) since I joined the Company in August 2020,” Hoffman said in a statement. “I look forward to building on the strong foundation he laid and working with the word-class team he assembled to elevate Wolverine Worldwide’s position as a global leader in the industry.”
In addition to the board leadership transition, Wolverine recently announced the appointment of Stacia Andersen, Jodi Bricker and DeMonty Price to its board of directors, effective March 14.
Andersen currently serves as executive vice president and chief customer officer of pet supply retailer PetSmart. Previously, she worked as brand president at apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch and has held various leadership and operational roles at Target.
Bricker is the CEO of global eyewear brand Quay Australia and previously worked at Athleta, a subsidiary of Gap, as well as Old Navy and Levi Strauss & Co.
Price recently retired after five years as president and chief operating, service and values officer at RH, a design and style curator in the luxury lifestyle market. Before joining RH in 2006, he held various roles with Williams-Sonoma and Gap.
Their appointments come as David McCreight will retire from Wolverine’s board on May 4, intending to devote his time to his role as executive chair of Lulu’s Fashion Lounge Holdings.
“I would like to thank David for his years of service and invaluable insights, and we wish him well at Lulu’s,” Hoffman said in a statement. “Looking ahead, Stacia, Jodi, and DeMonty each have more than 25 years of omnichannel retail, marketing, and brand-building experience in senior executive roles. We are excited to bring their individual and collective knowledge and insight into our boardroom as we continue to advance our growth strategy.”