Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour, is returning to the helm of the Baltimore-based athletic wear maker, the company announced in a Wednesday afternoon press release.

Plank is set to be president and CEO starting April 1. He will succeed Stephanie Linnartz, who had been in the position for little more than a year. Linnartz, the former president of the hotel chain Marriott International, is also stepping down from Under Armour’s board of directors, but will advise the company through April 30.

“I feel honored to have served as Under Armour’s President & CEO and worked with many incredible teammates who care deeply about the company’s purpose and mission,” Linnartz said in a statement. “I am proud of our progress against our strategic plan, including strengthening our team, evolving our products and marketing, and increasing our focus on profitability. We have a strong foundation in place for future growth and the company’s potential is limitless. I will continue to root for Under Armour’s success.”

As part of the reshuffling, Plank will step down as executive chair of the board of directors, according to the press release, but remain a director. Mohamed A. El-Erian, an economist and the president of Queen’s College at the University of Cambridge, will become the board’s chairman. El-Erian has served on the board since 2018.

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Plank, a former University of Maryland football player, founded Under Armour in 1996 before stepping down from the role of CEO in 2019. In 2020, he became the company’s Brand Chief.

“As the company continues to navigate several post-pandemic consumer, industry, and brand-specific factors, we are working hard to reconstitute our strengths and make thoughtful, balanced business decisions to drive enduring success for athletes, customers, and shareholders. I am energized about the team we have put into place and look forward to seizing the opportunities ahead,” Plank said in a statement.

Plank grew Under Armour from a company specializing in shirts that wicked sweat into a major athletic apparel brand with a diverse product line and billions of dollars in sales, but he faced criticism near the end of his tenure as CEO.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated Under Armour for misleading investors about its revenue for six months in 2015 while Plank was CEO. In 2021, Under Armour agreed to pay a $9 million penalty to settle the matter. Plank had an unusually close relationship with the TV journalist Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC.

In September, The Wall Street Journal reported that Plank gave Ruhle confidential information about Under Armour’s finances and sought her counsel on a variety of issues while running the company. The Journal also reported in 2018 that Under Armour employees and executives regularly paid for trips to strip clubs using company credit cards.

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The news of Plank’s return as CEO was announced after the New York Stock Exchange closed for the day, when Under Armour stock was valued at $7.78 a share. The stock price briefly rocketed to $8.75 in after-hours trading before falling back and hovering around $7.75 Wednesday evening.

John Michel, associate professor of management at the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University Maryland, said the move appears to be Under Armour trying to recenter itself and “go back to their roots.”

As companies grow, they often expand far beyond their initial business model and that can lead to growing pains, Michel said.

“I’m guessing they want to draw back on his original beliefs about the company,” Michel said. “That’s probably the hope.”

However, the departure of Linnartz after only as a year as CEO will likely be disruptive to the company and its employees, said Michel, an organizational psychologist. Whenever a CEO is replaced, there can be effects on turnover and motivation among employees, he said.

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Kathleen Day, a longtime business journalist and lecturer at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, said the abrupt leadership change raises questions. Day called Plank a “boomerang CEO,” meaning an executive who left and came back.

“This is not the way to have a succession. This is not something that looks planned,” Day said. “Did they give [Linnartz] enough time? ... Is [Plank] the best person to bring back?”

Yes, Plank successfully shepherded the company for more than two decades, Day said, but there were also missteps during his tenure. CEOs occasionally come back to run the company they founded, Day said, but it often goes poorly.

A famous exception is Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who led the company to massive success when he returned as CEO, she said.

“This doesn’t feel like a Steve Jobs moment,” Day said.

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