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Executive shakeups leave future of key sporting goods retailers in question


Minneapolis and Birmingham, Ala. —Major executive moves in the sporting goods space have created uncertainty regarding future operations at Gander Mountain and Hibbett Sports.

Earlier this month, Mark Baker resigned as president and ceo of Gander Mountain to accept a position as president and coo of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. Baker has served as a board member of the $2.9 billion supplier of lawn and garden products since 2004. Gander chairman David Pratt will act as ceo on an interim basis until a replacement is hired.

Hibbett Sports parted ways with president and coo Nissan Joseph due to what the company described as, “philosophical differences.” Chairman and ceo Mickey Newsome added, “we have mutually come to this decision and believe it is in the best interests of Hibbett and Nissan.”

Joseph joined Hibbett in January of this year and his appointment was seen as an important move to provide Hibbett with management bench strength since Newsome is 69 and will eventually retire. Under Joseph’s leadership, Hibbett has pursued an unwavering strategy of opening approximately 5,000-square-foot stores in predominantly southeastern markets, the result of which has been a chain consisting of 634 units that has produced positive same-store sales for nearly a decade and industry-leading operating margins of 12.1%.

The financial circumstances are very different at the 115-unit Gander Mountain chain, where Baker served as ceo since September 2002. The company generated annual sales of nearly $1 billion last year, but it recorded a loss of $31 million. The company has had negative same-store sales the past four years and its long term-debt and borrowings under its credit agreement hit new highs last year. That performance is reflected in the company’s shares, which at less than $4 are trading at nearly the lowest level since the company went public in April 2004 at $16 a share.

Baker’s move to ScottsMiracle-Gro returns him to an industry he is most familiar with, as he held senior executive roles at Home Depot from 1996 to 2001. Prior to that, he held senior executive positions with other home improvement retailers.

“I have known Mark for more than a decade and have long considered him to be a talented and innovative executive,” said Jim Hagedorn, Scotts Miracle-Gro’s chairman and ceo. “He has a strong understanding of Scotts Miracle-Gro, including the opportunities and hurdles that face our company and the lawn and garden category. His background provides him with a unique understanding of our retail channels, our consumers and the infrastructure challenges associated with being a major supplier to the nation’s largest retailers.”

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