As planned and leaked before, Gabriele Fenninger is to step down from her position as managing director of Intersport Austria. She will retire after 35 years with the buying group. She has been acting most recently as the managing director of the Austrian retail group, which changed its legal status last year in connection with its acquisition by Intersport Germany. Before, Fenninger was president of the group, which was then registered as a cooperative.

Under Fenninger's rule, some important strategic decisions were taken, including the ousting of Alfred Schwab, the strong man behind Intersport and the price-driven Sports Experts chain for decades, the licensing agreement between Intersport and Sport Eybl and its subsequent termination at the end of last year, after Sports Direct International took majority control of Eybl and Sports Experts. Fenninger was, along with the presidents of the German Intersport, Kim Roether and Klaus Jost, one of the masterminds behind last year's merger of the German and Austrian buying groups.

Fenninger will remain with Intersport on a consultancy basis through this summer to assist her now confirmed successor, Mathias Boenke. The 48-year-old served over the past seven years as head of the executive board responsible for sales and marketing at Huber Holding, an Austrian apparel maker. Before, he managed New Balance in the German-speaking countries for about five years. In his new job, he will be assisted by two seasoned executives of Intersport Austria, Alois Grüblinger and Franz Koll, as members of the executive board.

While introducing Boenke to the press earlier this month, Jost and Roether took the opportunity to present the set-up of the new operational structure of the now-combined Austro-German Intersport. The plan behind the new alliance is to basically leave all operations in Austria that strictly concern the Austrian market, such as sales, marketing, customer service and membership services, along with own retail - where it needs to be developed - and parts of the product management process.

The same organization will be used to cover the licensed markets of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, three countries which were also handled through Intersport Austria when it was an independent buying group. Its head office in Wels will take care of some of the product management functions for these countries and will do so - an important point - also on behalf of the retailers affiliated with Intersport in Germany. This applies especially to product ranges in which the Austrian retail group is particularly strong, notably winter sports and bicycle equipment. Contrary to the German Intersport members, their Austrian counterparts have been playing traditionally an important role in the local bike market.

In return, other activities will be centralized at Intersport Germany's head office in Heilbronn, which also supervised its operations in Poland. This includes key responsibilities such as IT, purchasing and the processing of orders. Apparel management for all six countries will also be handled from Heilbronn.