Gymshark co-founder becomes CEO to drive global growth
Gymshark’s Ben Francis is to return to the helm of the company he co-founded as a student, becoming CEO and spearheading the fast expanding firm’s push into the US and Asia. He has most recently been chief product officer but Danielle Petesic was appointed to that role last month.
The 29-year-old entrepreneur still owns 70% of the British company that has ably ridden the athleisure and activewear wave and was valued at £1 billion+ last summer.
He replaces CEO Steve Hewitt, who moves to a new executive role, and said that the succession plan had been worked on for some time after Hewitt had said he didn't believe he was the right person to lead the company as it moves to the next level.
Francis praised Hewitt, who has been with the business for almost six years, saying that it wouldn't be where it is today without him. At the time that he was appointed as CEO in June 2015, it was almost the reverse of the current situation with Hewitt saying he knew that he personally wasn't the right individual to lead Gymshark’s growth at that time.
The outgoing CEO now becomes executive president where his strong commercial capabilities and people management skills can be used.
Francis also said an external CEO had been one idea that was considered but it had been rejected.
The company has had its eye on its international potential for some time and the sale of a 21% stake to US private equity company General Atlantic for $300 million last year was largely about positioning it for US and Asian expansion.
Fast growth has been a major feature of the business for its entire history, it having been set up only nine years ago from home by Francis and his co-founders. Around the time Hewitt arrived from Reebok, its sales were still only in double-digit millions. But last year its revenue was £260 million and its profits were £30 million. In the year to this month, revenue is expected to be above £400 million.
Part of the push for growth in America saw it opening a Denver office employing over 100 people earlier this year with the company attracting talent from major names in the business such as Lululemon.
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