Nike is losing some good people here. But the reality is that these changes are probably needed, and set the stage for a step-up in acquisition activity.
First off, Nike has 35,000 employees globally. I'd challenge anyone (even many inside Nike) to even attempt to draw an organization table. It can't be done. It was hard enough when Nike was aligned by Region and by Product (i.e. US Footwear, Asian Apparel, etc...). But now it is aligned by Region, Product AND most importantly, by category (basketball, running, fitness, etc...). This is basically a 3-D matrix that is extraordinarily difficult to manage.
With that as a backdrop, let's look at the management changes and gage the impact. There are two that raised an eyebrow.
1) Eunan McLaughlin: Eunan has definitely put in his time and has been the consummate journeyman inside Nike. He started off as a sales rep in Europe in 1999, but by 2001 he was the country manager for Asia. In other words he was one of the key leaders in building up Chinese infrastructure. Then he became head of Europe in 2004, and ultimately came to the US to head up the affiliates in 2009. That last move, however, was probably not his first choice. He was in his element when running Europe and immersed in the world of growing the business with a particular emphasis on football. Coming to the US to run a portfolio of brands including Converse, Cole Haan and Hurley was probably a step down.
2) Roger Wyett: Roger’s background is very circular, but oddly enough, it works in this context. He joined Nike in 1994, working his way up to head of Global Product Creation. After 6-years he left Nike for Disney where he headed up Global Apparel, Footwear and Accessories. Then he returned to Nike in 2005 to be President and COO of Hurley International -- yes, a business that's a fraction of the size he oversaw at Disney. Then in 2006 he became head of global apparel after Mindy Grossman left the company. About 18 months later, he became CEO of Hurley International (again). Now he's moving over to run the affiliates?
While the affiliate brands are often view by the Street as the ugly red-headed stepchild -- keep in mind that Nike's most profitable business (Converse) falls under that banner. Also keep in mind that Nike is planning to step up acquisition activity this year. This role reports directly to Mark Parker, and Mark puts heavy emphasis on innovation. Roger has proven his ability to do this during his early days at Nike, then at Disney, and then again at Hurley. Not so when heading the behemoth $4bn apparel business for the Nike brand. I guess 3 out of 4 is good enough.
3) The most predictable response by the Street will be to an overwhelmingly positive reaction to Jan Singer's appointment as head of Global Apparel. It is warranted. Jan is good, and her stock has been on the rise at Nike. She's also had exposure to many investors over the past year. Jill Stanton is definitely a loss. But Wall Street does not really know her well enough to focus on her departure.
The bottom line here is that Parker put a design and innovation-focused manager (Wyett) in charge of a) a place where it's needed, and b) a place where acquired brands will need to quickly cross-fertilize with the rest of Nike. The other moves have their puts and takes, but they all still report to Eric Sprunk, who is the Mac Daddy of product inside Nike. He's not going anywhere but up.