The CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ed Stack, is reportedly “testing the waters for a possible third-party presidential bid,” according to Politico.
The Washington, D.C., based newsmagazine says that focus groups in Wisconsin — a key battleground state that went narrowly to now-President Donald Trump in 2016 — received questions about Stack, including whether they would be willing to vote for Stack in a head to head matchup against Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
The questions reportedly referred to a potential third party run, making Stack, who is a longtime Republican donor, a wild card in the 2020 campaign, rather than a primary challenger in either party.
Stack may be best known for being the CEO who halted assault rifle sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods stores — and the chain’s partner store, Field & Stream — following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and now restricts all customers under the age of 21 from purchasing any firearm.
The move led to the company destroying more than $5 million worth of stock, turning the guns into scrap metal rather than returning the rifles to their manufacturer, according to interviews Stack gave at the time.
The financial results of Stack’s decision are mixed. Dick’s same store sales fell in 2019, and the company lost a reported $150 million in sales — or about 1.7% of its overall value. But according to Barron’s, the companies overall financial health is still good, and analysts expect the company’s stock price to rise around 2% over the course of 2019. Part of that comes from a company-wide decision to move away from hunting gear altogether — probably not a bad idea given that hunters were probably the prime audience concerned about Dick’s decision on rifles.
Focus groups in Wisconsin were specifically asked about Stack’s public image and “ran through varying themes involving Stack … [The session] heavily focused on his example of ‘showing leadership’ by halting the sale of assault-style rifles at all of Dick’s Sporting Goods stores.”
“Those in the group were shown several short videos of other candidates including Biden, Warren and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz — a fellow billionaire who explored a presidential bid as an independent before announcing in September that he would not run — but viewed eight or nine videos that included Stack messaging, according to a focus group participant,” Politico reported Wednesday.
A source close to the CEO told Politico that, “Mr. Stack enjoys running Dick’s Sporting Goods and has no plans to run for any elected office,” but that tendency may be a function of how the focus group played out. According to the focus group participant who spoke to Politico, reaction to Stack was mixed, and that focus group members were concerned Stack was too old, and that he lacked the charisma necessary to take on Biden, Warren, or Trump.
But if Stack doesn’t run for president, it does seem like he’s interested in taking on a larger role in politics. He released a memoir last week, which includes his outlook on things like gun control legislation, and has been vocal on the issue of gun violence in recent weeks.