American Outdoor Brands CEO Ousted Over Non-Financial Misconduct

American Outdoor Brands has new leadership, with former CEO James Debney out due to "conduct inconsistent with non-financial company policy."

American Outdoor Brands CEO Ousted Over Non-Financial Misconduct

The January trade show season is filled with company introductions, management moves and other news, but the latest from American Outdoor Brands isn't what the company envisioned going into the annual SHOT Show.

American Outdoor Brands announced it has "separated" from former CEO James Debney for what its Board of Directors determined was "conduct inconsistent with a non-financial company policy." The company did not elaborate.

James Debney
James Debney

Debney's Wikipedia profile lists just one line and "former CEO and President of American Outdoor Brands Corporation." His LinkedIn account says he was President of Smith & Wesson from 2009-11 and President and CEO of Smith & Wesson Holding Company from 2011-present. According to, Debney earned $3.8 million during the fiscal year ending April 30, 2019.

The AOB board named Mark P. Smith and Brian D. Murphy as co-Presidents and co-CEOs, effective immediately.

Debney's ascention to CEO and president was as rapid as his departure. In late September 2011 he replaced Michael F. Golden in both positions after Golden was replaced "effective immediately" by the Board of Directors, according to The Outdoor Wire report. Golden held both positions for seven years and remained as co-Vice Chairman of the Smith & Wesson Board.

At the time, Smith & Wesson called Debney's promotion part of a "comprehensive succession plan" after a decision by the Board of Directors.

Here is the news release from AOB:

American Outdoor Brands Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select: AOBC), today announced that its Board of Directors has named Mark P. Smith and Brian D. Murphy as co-Presidents and co-Chief Executive Officers of American Outdoor Brands Corp., effective immediately. Smith was most recently President of the Manufacturing Services Division of the company, while Murphy was most recently President of the Outdoor Products & Accessories Division. In their co-leadership roles, Smith and Murphy succeed James Debney, who has separated as President and Chief Executive Officer and as a Director of the Company, following the determination by the Board of Directors that he engaged in conduct inconsistent with a non-financial company policy.

The company is proceeding with its previously announced plan to spin off its outdoor products and accessories business as a tax-free stock dividend to its stockholders in the second half of calendar 2020, a transaction that would create two independent publicly traded companies: Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. (which would encompass the firearm business) and American Outdoor Brands, Inc. (which would encompass the outdoor products and accessories business). Jeffrey D. Buchanan, Chief Financial Officer, will continue to serve as the lead executive on coordinating and executing the separation of the two businesses

Upon completion of the transaction, and as previously announced, Smith will become President and CEO of Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.  Also upon completion of the transaction, Brian D. Murphy, currently President of the company’s Outdoor Products & Accessories Division, will become President and CEO of American Outdoor Brands, Inc.

Barry M. Monheit, Chairman of the Board, said, “We appreciate James’ contributions toward the growth and development of our company and its infrastructure. The Board believes the company is fortunate to have two highly capable and experienced leaders in Mark Smith and Brian Murphy. Each has played a critical role in the development of our strategic plans, including our intention to establish each business as an independent, publicly traded company.

"In addition, Mark and Brian have each demonstrated, through years of leadership and service, their extensive knowledge of and passion for our company, our customers, and our industries. Their capabilities and objectives position them well to share the combined CEO role as the team completes the separation of our two businesses later in 2020. The Board has every confidence that they will provide the vision and determination to lead each independent company and its highly respected brand portfolio toward a successful future."


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