Academy Sports CEO Ken Hicks leaves post

  • After about five years in the position
  • Accolades, praise and thanks for Hicks
  • Steve Lawrence taking over
  • Hicks will remain as Executive Chairman at Academy Sports
  • Hicks made a lengthy statement and said 344 words

(exechange) — Katy, Texas, April 27, 2023 — Ken Hicks, chief executive of Academy Sports, leaves his position. As announced by Academy Sports & Outdoors Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Thursday, April 27, 2023, Ken C. Hicks leaves his post as chief executive officer at the sporting goods and outdoor recreation retailer, after about five years in the role, effective June 1, 2023.

The average tenure of CEOs who announced their departure over the past 12 months was 7.8 years. This is according to data collected by CEO-exit research firm exechange.

exechange tracks CEO departures at the 3,000 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., examines the reasons CEOs leave and determines the Push‑out Score™, a measure of pressure on departing chief executives on a scale of 0 to 10.

Ken Hicks’s duties as CEO will be taken over by Steven P. (Steve) Lawrence, currently Chief Merchandising Officer at Academy Sports & Outdoors Inc.

Lawrence will continue to serve as CMO until a successor is selected and duly appointed.

Ken Hicks’s move coincides with a management shake-up also involving the positions of Chief Financial Officer; and President.

“The right time”

The management change is explained as follows. Hicks stated: “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 top three reasons cited in corporate announcements for CEO departures over the past 12 months are performance issues (27.2% of cases), implementation of a planned succession (16.5%) and the statement that the time was right for a change (10.1%), according to exechange data. Other motives given for leadership changes included the outgoing CEO’s wish to pursue other opportunities (6.3% of cases), personal reasons (4.1%) and conduct issues (2.2%). Rather rarely stated reasons are health problems (1.6% of cases), disagreement (1.3%), death (1.3%), the desire for more time with family (0.9%) and career change (0.6%). Sometimes, more than one reason was given. In 27.8% of cases, no reason was given.

Hicks will remain as Executive Chairman at Academy Sports

Academy Sports stated: “Ken C. Hicks, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), will transition from President and CEO to Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors.”


Academy Sports said: “In connection with a planned succession process conducted by the Board of Directors (the “Board”) of Academy Sports and Outdoors, Inc. (the “Company”), on April 26, 2023, Ken C. Hicks, President and Chief Executive Officer of Company and Chairman of the Board notified the Board of his decision to transition out of his roles as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, effective as of 12:01 a.m. Central Time on June 1, 2023.”

Share price increase since October 2020

The announcement follows an increase in Academy Sports & Outdoors Inc.’s share price of 402% since October 2020.

In the position of CEO since 2018

Ken Hicks became CEO of the Company in 2018.

As Executive Chairman, Hicks will remain involved at Academy, continuing to lead the Board of Directors and serving as a partner to Lawrence to support the execution of Academy’s recently announced long-range strategic plan.

Hicks will also work closely with Lawrence to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

Hicks has served as the Chairman of the Board and as President and Chief Executive Officer since joining the Company in May 2018.

Hicks has served as a member of the Board since June 2020 and served as a member of the board of managers of New Academy Holding Company, LLC from May 2017 until June 2020.

Hicks previously served as President and Chief Executive Officer at Foot Locker, Inc. from August 2009 until February 2010, and also served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at Foot Locker, Inc. from February 2010 until November 2014, and as Executive Chairman at Foot Locker, Inc. from December 2014 until May 2015.

Currently, Hicks has served on the board of directors of Avery Dennison Corporation since July 2007.

Previously, Hicks served on the Board of Directors and its Compensation Committee of Whole Foods Market, Inc. from May 2017 until August 2017.

344 words by Ken Hicks

In the news release announcing his departure as CEO of Academy Sports & Outdoors Inc., Ken Hicks received accolades, praise and thanks.

In announcing his departure, Ken Hicks made a lengthy statement and said 344 words.

“Steve and I share the same mission, vision and values”

Ken Hicks stated: “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.”

Over the past 12 months, 25% of all outgoing CEOs remained silent in the departure announcement, according to data compiled by exechange. Departing CEOs who did make a statement said an average of 109 words. The longest statement was 510 words. The shortest statement was 23 words. Leadership transitions in which departing CEOs provide conspicuously short, excessively long or no explanations for their move are statistically associated with elevated pressure and show an increased incidence of Push-out Scores above the critical threshold of 5.

40% of CEOs are forced out or fired

When CEO departures are announced, exechange determines the Push-out Score on a scale of 0 to 10 to assess how likely it is that the chief executive was pushed out or felt pressure to leave the position, with 0 being most likely a voluntary move and 10 being most likely a forced exit. Anything over a 5 indicates that there are valid reasons to believe an executive may have been pushed out.

Of the 316 CEO departures in the Russell 3000 Index evaluated over the past 12 months (April 27, 2022, to April 26, 2023), the average Push-out Score was 6.2, according to exechange data. References to conduct issues, disagreements and irregularities lead to the highest Push-out Scores. When performance issues, pursuit of other opportunities or time with family were cited as departure reasons, the average Push-out Scores were also significantly elevated.

Around 40% of the CEO departure events from the past 12 months received Push-out Scores of 8 or higher.

In other words, in the past 12 months, two in five departing CEOs were forced out or fired.

Push-out Score for Ken Hicks’s move determined

The Push-out Score regarding Ken Hicks’s move is explained point by point in the exechange report.

exechange reached out to Academy Sports and offered the company the opportunity to comment on the score.

Read the full story in the exechange report 18.2023 ($).