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Next Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO will be the 41st woman chief in the Fortune 500

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Dick’s Sporting Goods on Tuesday made the widely-expected announcement that the woman who has been the key architect of the retailer’s current success will become its next CEO next year, succeeding the son of sporting goods chain’s founder.

Lauren Hobart, Dick’s president of three years, will take the reins on February, bringing the number of women CEOs on the Fortune 500 to 41 (barring any new additions or departures). She will replace Ed Stack, whose father founded Dick’s in 1948. He and his siblings bought the chain—then two stores in upstate New York—from their father in 1984 and turned it into a 732-store, $9 billion-a-year retailer.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has bucked the retail trends that bankrupted chains like The Sports Authority and Modell’s in recent years, in no small part thanks to Hobart. She joined Dick’s in 2011 and has been Stack’s right-hand woman for years, a position that has set her up for a smooth transition to the CEO job. Stack, CEO for 36 years, will stay on as executive chairman in February while continuing to head Dick’s merchandising.

Hobart, 51, joined Dick’s in 2011 as its marketing chief after stints in senior jobs at PepsiCo, where she led marketing for its North American soft drinks business, and before that in the finance sector at Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase.

She played a key role in formulating Dick’s strategy to replace the $300 million in annual sales lost in 2018 after the company made the controversial move to significantly pare its firearms assortment in the wake of a spate of mass shootings. Hobart, armed with the deep customer data a marketing chief needs, also helped Stack come up with a plan to aggressively pursue more serious athletes, not just casual participants, and outdoor enthusiasts who usually shop at REI or L.L. Bean.

On her watch, Dick’s has added more experiential elements to its stores, including HitTrax baseball batting cages and indoor golf driving ranges to help shoppers find the right clubs.

What’s more, as president since 2017, she has overseen Dick’s e-commerce strategy, one that is paying dividends during the current pandemic: Dick’s online sales nearly doubled last quarter, helping the retailer report a company-record 23% increase in total sales to $2.41 billion, beating analyst estimates. E-commerce generated about one-fifth of sales compared to one-eighth or so a year earlier.

While Dick’s benefited from some big tailwinds as Americans spent more on workout clothing and equipment to create home gyms, sporting goods and outdoor equipment, much of the success has to do with Dick’s executives, Hobart chief among them, moving to take advantage of the trends.

Stack, who took Dick’s public in 2002, said in a statement: “This is the perfect time for this transition. We have the best management team in the company’s history.” The company’s financial results this year bear those claims out.

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