Get to Know Matthew O’Toole, the President of Reebok

As sneaker giant Reebok makes its move to Boston, O’Toole talks about the fish tacos at Tavern Road, the anguish of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, and the importance of humility for an executive.

matthew otoole reebok president

Illustration Source Courtesy of Reebok

The most exciting part of moving Reebok to Boston is the vibrancy and energy of the city. Boston is becoming a global hub for innovation, and I’m most excited to connect to the amazing academic, arts, tech, and fitness and running communities.

It takes humility to be successful in an executive role—a willingness to hear out and take into consideration many different opinions, even if at first your instinct might be to go at a problem by yourself.

One bit of advice I have for anyone heading into a job interview is to do your homework. Know as much as you can about the company and learn a little bit about the person who will be interviewing you. Also, ask questions—and not just questions that you can find on any company’s website. Dig a bit deeper and show you understand the successes and challenges of the company.

Sometimes as a CEO you have to make really difficult decisions. When I was in my mid-thirties I took over as CEO of an ice hockey equipment company in Montreal—CCM—that was in bankruptcy. To save the company we had to close manufacturing facilities. It really weighed on me. But, looking back, it helped bring the company back to life. In tough moments, you learn the most about yourself and how to become a more effective leader.

The best way to unwind after a tough day is watching one of my kids’ sports events. I have five children and nothing is more exciting for me than seeing them play.

A book that made a lasting impression is Spark, by Dr. John Ratey—it really solidified for me that exercise holds far more than physical benefits. Ratey proves that leading a fitness-focused lifestyle beats stress, lifts your mood, fights memory loss, and even helps us become more mentally agile.

One thing most people don’t know about Reebok is that we were the first company to make fitness shoes exclusively for women. The Freestyle, our iconic shoe made popular by the ’80s aerobics craze, is one of our heritage models from that era. It’s still one of our most popular shoes today.

My favorite place to grab lunch in the city is Tavern Road. Get the fish tacos.

In 2012 I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. During our ascent we skipped the last camp and covered two days of hiking in a day. It was crazy cold and windy, and there was falling ice all around us. Once we summited we had to head down in the dark. I learned my 16-year-old son, Garrett, was tougher than me, and seeing him persevere kept me going.

Reebok at a Glance

Founded in 1958
Number of employees in headquarters 750
Debuted the first Reebok Pump in 1989
First non-athlete to get a signature sneaker Jay-Z