Michael Rupp is unexpectedly leaving Jack Wolfskin after less than two years at the helm of the German outdoor company, to be replaced with Melody Harris-Jensbach, a former board member in charge of product at Puma and chief product officer at Esprit.
The company said that Rupp had decided not to renew his contract for personal reasons. He took over in July 2012 from the group's founder, Manfred Hell, after Jack Wolfskin was acquired by Blackstone, the U.S. private equity firm, at an estimated price of €650 to €700 million.
Rupp's arrival occurred at a time when the German outdoor market was coming under growing pressure. The former Adidas Group executive focused on sprucing up the brand with a more urban and family-oriented approach, while further exploring foreign markets such as Russia, China, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. Sales for the financial year 2013 declined by 7.9 percent to €324 million. The impact of the changeover should become clearer when Jack Wolfskin unveils figures for this year.
Harris-Jensbach brings almost three decades of experience in the fashion and sportswear industry. She studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York and started as a designer of women's wear. After several years at Viventy, Escada and Esprit, among others, she joined Puma in 2008 to become chief product officer and vice-president. She returned to Esprit as chief product and design officer in 2012 when it became clear that she would not be the chosen candidate to succeed Jochen Zeitz as chief executive at Puma. However, she left Esprit last year in search of another challenge – the fact that she was immediately available may have been an important factor.
Since Harris-Jensbach is described as a fashion and product specialist, some predict that she will attempt to broaden the appeal of the Jack Wolfskin brand - although its ranges and branding were already overhauled under the leadership of Elke Stein, whom Rupp hired from Adidas and appointed as director of marketing and product development about two years ago. Others will be watching her performance in finance and global management, in which she has less experience as yet.