EXCLUSIVE: After Just 10 Months, Nike's Openly Gay CIO Is Gone

Anthony WatsonLinkedIn/Anthony WatsonPhoto: Former Nike CIO Anthony Watson

Business Insider has confirmed that Nike CIO Anthony Watson has left the company.

Sources close to the company tell us that Watson and Nike parted ways for reasons unclear.

Here’s the official statement from a Nike spokesperson Greg Rossiter: “I wanted to confirm that Anthony Watson has left Nike, Inc. for personal reasons.”

While many corporate CIOs fly under the radar, Watson was extremely visible. For one thing, the 37-year-old British citizen was openly gay. That made him the only openly gay CIO at a Fortune 100 company, according to a blog post by LGBT advocacy group GLAAD.

When Apple CEO Tim Cook came out earlier this year, the U.S. business world stood up, looked around and tried to count the other gay role models in top executive ranks at huge companies. The list CNN Money came up with was pretty short, six people, with Watson among them.

He was cool with being a role model. He was the first British citizen and non-American to join the board of directors of LGBT activist group GLAAD, back in 2013, before he joined Nike.

Beyond that, when Nike hired him away from his position as a CIO of Barclays in February, he was hailed as “a new breed of CIOs that are highly consumer-centric, agile, innovative, transformational and one of Europe’s top CIOs,” reported Computerworld UK’s Mark Chillingworth at the time. Hiring him was seen as “as a big coup for Nike,” according to Chillingworth.

It was one of many changes Nike was making in its approach to tech. Two months after Watson arrived, Nike changed directions with its Fitband wearable device and fired most of the hardware team working on it, about 55 people, CNET reported.

We’ve heard that Watson was vigorously trying to upgrade much of Nike’s internal IT and renegotiate deals with key vendors, such as bringing in a new network equipment vendor, Juniper Networks.

We reached out to Watson for comment and will update when we hear back.

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