Nike promotes comms head as it deals with CEO shuffle

BEAVERTON, OR: Nike has named a new head of communications, as the company faces scrutiny after the departure of its short-lived CEO.

BEAVERTON, OR: Nike has named a new head of communications, as the company faces scrutiny after the departure of its short-lived CEO.

The $13.7 billion athletic shoe and clothing company promoted Nigel Powell to VP of global communications in mid-January, just two weeks before William Perez resigned as CEO after just 13 months.

When VP of corporate communications Kirk Stewart left Nike in July, Stewart's group was moved into Powell's branding communications group, creating one communications team.

Powell was previously director of global brand communications. In his new role, Powell will lead all brand and business communications activities, including the Nike brand and the company's subsidiaries.

"We're very much focused on the passion and emotion that comes with sports, and we want to connect to that in everything we do, from communications to how we run the business," said Powell.

Powell, 38, first joined Nike in 1999 as communications director for its EMEA region.

He was named head of US communications in 2002, and then global brand communications director in September 2004.

Powell, who leads a global communications team of 100 people, declined to talk specifically about the communications initiatives he's planning for 2006.

He also declined to comment on the change of CEOs. But Powell is no doubt focusing on the departure of Perez, and the ascension of Mark Parker, a 25-year Nike veteran, to CEO.

Nike's statement on the CEO change cited "differences regarding leadership between Perez and Philip H Knight, Nike's founder and board chairman." Perez had replaced Knight as CEO.

Such an admission gave the media the opportunity to explore Nike's corporate culture, with The New York Times calling Nike "famously insular."

Perez joined Nike from S.C. Johnson & Son, where he had been CEO and president since 1996. The media noted that Parker, former Nike brand co-president, has been with the company for 25 years, and was a better cultural fit.

Nike also faces new competitive pressure. Although its ubiquitous brand dominates the US market, German sportswear company Adidas-Salomon AG's impending acquisition of US-based Reebok could make competition fiercer.

Nike controls 90% of the market for sneakers priced over $100, and more than 20% of the overall US athletic shoe market.

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