Changing Places in the Athletic Industry: Key Hire and Departures

Reebok has poached a top-shelf executive from one of its competitors in the athletic industry.

Portia Blunt has joined Reebok as vice president of apparel. In this role, she heads up the global apparel team and oversees all apparel categories.

Blunt reports to Todd Krinsky, Reebok’s senior vice president of global product. She has taken on responsibilities that we’re previously handled by Barbara Ebersberger, according to a Reebok spokeswoman.

Reebok’s latest hire didn’t have far to relocate to. Blunt was previously a key team member at another Boston-based sneaker company as director of apparel operations at New Balance, where she worked for for 13 years. There, Blunt held various posts including leading innovation. Blunt served as a member of New Balance’s Diversity Council. Last fall she was named by Footwear News as one of the “Trailblazing Black Leaders in Footwear and Fashion.”

The need for greater diversity and racial equity has been emphasized by employees at the Adidas-owned Reebok — as well as at its archival Nike — for months. Last year more than 1,600 employees at Adidas and Reebok signed a petition calling for change to ensure racial equality.

Part of the conglomerate’s response was to commit to investing $120 million in efforts to support the Black community through 2025. The company is targeting 20 percent to 23 percent Black and Latinx employees in corporate roles by 2025 and 12 percent in leadership roles in the U.S. by that time.

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As for how New Balance has dealt with Blunt’s departure, a company spokeswoman did not respond immediately to comment Thursday.

Earlier this week another leading position in the athletic industry opened up. After 25 years at Nike, Ann Hebert resigned as vice president and general manager of North America. The company veteran exited after being linked to her son Joe’s sneaker resale business.

Earlier this week a Nike spokeswoman said that it was Hebert’s decision to resign. The company said in a statement at that time that it plans to name a successor “shortly.” It is not known if an interim successor has been named.

Meanwhile, Blunt joins Reebok at a pivotal time. After months of speculation, Adidas officially said that it is planning to sell Reebok. Adidas purchased the sneaker giant in 2006 for $3.8 million, but the asking price is said to be significantly less than that. Last year it reportedly wrote down the value of the brand to just under $1 billion.

Shaquille O’Neal and Authentic Brands Group, who have a partnership, are said to be interested in the company. VF Corp, which houses such labels as Supreme, The North Face and Timberland, and Anita Sports, the China-based parent company of Fila and Descente, are also said to be vying for Reebok.

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