Longtime CEO of Berkshire Hathaway’s Brooks Running will step down, hand the reins to company veteran

Longtime CEO of Berkshire Hathaway’s Brooks Running will step down, hand the reins to company veteran

COO and President Dan Sheridan of Brooks Running

Courtesy: Brooks

The longtime CEO of Berkshire Hathaway’s Brooks Running, Jim Weber, is stepping down after more than 20 years in the top job, the company will announce Tuesday. 

Brooks veteran Dan Sheridan, who started at the running company in a marketing role in 1998 and worked his way up to chief operating officer and president, will take over on April 26. 

Weber, who brought Brooks back from the brink of bankruptcy, steered it through four different owners and built it into a $1 billion-plus brand, told CNBC he’s sad to step down and leave what he called the “best job in the world.” But after he recovered from cancer several years ago, he said he is looking to “dial back” and find more balance in his life.

“I’m super proud of what we built. I’ve been CEO for 23 years and if I add two years in front of that as a board member, it’s been 25 years so it’s just been such a great run,” Weber said in an interview. “We’ve got a company that’s achieved a lot and has incredible opportunity looking ahead. We’ve got momentum right now.” 

Sheridan is inheriting what he called a thriving business. He has taken on a bigger role in building it in the last few years as Weber prepared him to take over.

Last year, Brooks hit $1.2 billion in sales, a more than 5% increase globally. Much of that growth came in North America, where the company takes in about 80% of its total revenue.

Looking ahead, Sheridan has his eyes on global expansion and building out Brooks’ product offering. That includes plans to build the first Brooks Running store in China, an “absolute growth market” for the brand, according to Sheridan. He said the company also aims to expand direct sales in the U.S. and grow wholesale partnerships in Europe.

“I’m lucky because not many new CEOs get to step in and inherit what I would call a sound business, a sound culture and a sound brand, and the strength that we have is pretty unique,” said Sheridan. “So I don’t have a turnaround, I don’t have to come in and make sweeping changes.” 

Soon after Brooks Running became a stand-alone subsidiary company of Berkshire Hathaway in 2012, Weber and his team were asked to start succession planning. They began to “formalize” and “professionalize” the process that eventually led to Sheridan’s appointment, Weber said.

Warren Buffett famously asked every one of the CEOs every year for a letter. And in the letter, you had to put who your successor was, and he didn’t open it unless he had to,” Weber said. “So we did that and … we started really getting serious about succession planning.” 

Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber

Courtesy: Brooks

As Sheridan climbed up the ranks from a sales manager to executive vice president overseeing global sales, his “insatiable” eagerness, curiosity and ambition to learn more about the company caught Weber’s eye, the outgoing CEO said.

He identified Sheridan as someone who aspired to lead at a higher level. Over the last five years, Weber spent time exposing his now-successor to different parts of the business, covering everything from strategy and marketing to corporation functions like legal and finance. As it became more clear in the last two years that Sheridan would take over for Weber, the incoming chief executive was able to take a turn in the driver’s seat and implement strategy. 

“His fingerprints, in the last 24 months, are on our strategy,” said Weber.

While Sheridan has been exposed to every facet of the business and is “ready” for the top job, his biggest challenges are ahead, said Weber. Performance running is a bright spot in an otherwise pressured footwear market, but Sheridan will have to contend with an uncertain economy, supply chain disruptions, steep competition and the ever-shifting whims of its target consumer, to name a few hurdles. 

“I think the thing that I’ve learned the most in my time with Jim is that in these roles that are super hard, judgment is the most important thing for any leader,” said Sheridan. “Judgment is something you get through experience but it’s also something you get through thoughtful listening in the team around you. So I’m sharpening my judgment for the future … and that’s been something that Jim has ingrained in me and helped me tune.”

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