American Outdoor Brands, owner of gunmaker Smith & Wesson, replaced its CEO for engaging in misconduct that the company described as “inconsistent with a non-financial company policy.”
The firing of James Debney as president and CEO was announced after the market close on Wednesday. Shares of American Outdoor Brands did not change much on the news.
The company is in the process of spinning off Smith & Wesson into a separate company under the same name. Until that is final, American Outdoor Brands says it will operate with co-CEOs, Mark Smith and Brian Murphy. Smith had already been tapped to lead Smith & Wesson Brands after the spin-off and Murphy was tapped to lead American Outdoor Brands, the remaining company that will sell outdoor and camping products.
“We appreciate James’ contributions toward the growth and development of our company and its infrastructure,” said Chairman Barry Monheit.
“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.”
The move comes after a difficult period for the firearms industry. Sales were strong during much of the Obama administration, and gun enthusiasts worried about the threat of gun control measures and bought additional weapons. But those sales have slumped during President Donald Trump’s tenure as fears of such restrictions eased.
Although its sales and earnings have been down, American Outdoor Brands remained profitable during the downturn, unlike some competitors such as Vista Outdoor, which reported losses. In March 2018, gunmaker Remington Outdoor Brands, one of the nation’s largest gunmakers, filed for bankruptcy.
Smith and Wesson’s move comes just ahead of the Jan. 21 start of the Shot Show, the industry’s major trade show, in Las Vegas.