Cover Photo: Shayne Lynn
The Newschoolers forums have a special place in skiing. A unique location, where you can see the totally clueless discuss skiing's news and trends with the biggest names in the ski industry. With astonishing regularity they throw up absolute gems of posts which we want the world to see. This is one from Jason Levinthal on the current situation at K2 is a case in point:
I worked for 7 years at K2 Sports. I've done everything from building skis in my garage, to operating a small and medium size private ski company, sold it twice to keep it afloat and now have gone back to a startup boutique ski company selling exclusively direct at Jskis.com. So over the past 20 years I've worked on every side and for every size ski business. My biggest take away from all of it is that winter sports brands never have, and never will match a public company's financial goals due to their seasonality and limited market size. This is a fact!
Public companies exist for one simple reason, to make more money every year. As an investor or shareholder you can't disagree with this. Reality is, the ski industry is not growing, it's shrinking so the only way to accomplish annual growth is by spending less while selling the same. In a flat business this can only be accomplished by making cheaper product, reducing the number of employees, reducing athlete and media support, less marketing, ultimately investing less and less of the money made back into the brand and the sport. This leads to an automatic death spiral driving sales down, thus requiring more cutting and so on. Eventually the public company comes to the conclusion that they are done squeezing blood from a rock and it's time to sell it and look for the the next brand to purchase to do the same. Successful public companies know that the best brands sell the same product year round for decades to 100% of the population, everywhere on earth (paper towels, shoes, toothpicks, etc.). The ski industry sells to a tiny niche of consumers, for only 5 months a year... and only if it snows!
That said as you all know, the passion of winter sports consumers is second to none and is the reason that these brands do have a strong future and they can be very profitable IF managed correctly, which requires being privately owned. For this reason selling these brands is inevitable and can be an amazing opportunity and long term best for the brands and the ski industry.
The problem however is that Newell's goals are not driven by what's best for the brands, they want to sell it as as one giant conglomerate for efficiency and cost savings of doing one deal. I've talked to Newell directly this past week inquiring about the potential to buy Line and FT and they confirmed it will only be sold all as a whole, no option for someone to buy a single brand/brands, this includes the Euro division as well.
Thus it's unlikely the brands will be in any better hands than now and likely worse similar to when Quicksilver bought Rossignol and ran them into the ground before a private equity firm bought them back and got them back on track to where they are today. My guess is whoever buys it will either immediately break them up and sell individually to make profit or try to live the ski industry dream for a couple of years before bleed to death and eventually give in to re-sell separately or as a whole again down the road for even less.
I truly believe each and every brand has amazing potential to be sustainable stand alone or part of the right group if owned & operated by the right people. The industry can be rejuvenated with the profit made, being reinvested back into the sport (instead of wall street) so we actually have a chance of our sport not only surviving but growing (climate change aside). So if anyone has access to a couple hundred million dollars, hit me up and we can take a crack at saving 30% of the ski industries brands with the power to fix a lot of what's broken in skiing and snowboarding.