As one of Quiksilver’s co-founders, Bob McKnight has invested a lifetime (thirty seven years, to be exact) into developing the Mountain and Wave from a van full of home-made boardshorts into a two-billion dollar enterprise with over 7,500 employees globally. McKnight served as Quiksilver’s CEO since 1991, so his recent decision to pass the reigns to former Disney and Nike executive Andrew Mooney certainly shook up the action sports industry. We were able to catch up with McKnight to get a sense for his headspace during the transition. Here, he reflects on his time at Quiksilver and contemplates the road ahead – both professionally and personally.
I had a chance to catch up with you briefly at the Agenda show last weekend. How did that go considering it was essentially the first significant business event since you announced your decision to step down? I’m sure people had a lot of questions for you.
Attending Agenda was great. It’s the first time I’ve actually attended that show. Great show, lots of energy, really liked seeing all the new emerging brands coming from our industry. I had a lot of questions and conversation from retailers, other company managers and reps, and of course from my own team at the show. All of the response was positive and created smiles and high fives all the way around.
Was there an inciting incident or specific reason you felt that now was the right time to move into a different role at Quiksilver?
I have been working on bringing in someone to run the company for about a year. I had someone in this role before, so it is nothing new for me, and it was 100% my doing to find the right person.
I wanted someone who brought large/similar company experience to the table to help us grow correctly and respectfully, and help us achieve more profitability.
The markets have responded favorably to the change (from a 52 week low of 2.09 to 5.46 per share). What’s your take on that?
All the analysts who follow our company and our faithful shareholders were thrilled that we took the time to find such a high-level, quality, correct fit for Quiksilver (ZQK). They were also happy – as were most of the retailers and our loyal employees, managers and reps – that I will be staying on in my Executive Chairman role ensuring all the continuity and consistency in our company to our core customers, our team riders, and the endemic market. I think the real value of our three great brands is being unlocked to Wall Street.
Andy Mooney comes from a successful corporate background at both Disney and Nike. Were there any features in particular that made him especially desirable as your replacement? If you could distill it into one or two qualities, what sold you and your board on him?
Of course Andy’s background of being at the highest level at Nike and Disney for over 30 years was highly attractive. But Andy is a true leader and operator, a P&L guy, a great motivator and team builder and a wonderful human being. We got to know each other very well through the process. He obviously brings in his resume from the highest level to be effective here, but he understands the industry, our space, and the outdoor action sports world. He has come from similar brands/ companies that share that same complexity as ours: global business, four seasons, Northern/Southern Hemisphere, men’s and women’s, multi-brand, wholesale business, direct to consumer business via retail and e-commerce, apparel-shoe-accessories, and being a public company.
How do you see your involvement with the brand moving forward?
I will still be here 100%, ensuring Andy’s success, and doing my regular job of keeping our cool with the endemic market, keeping my relationships with core customers, hanging out with our managers/employees worldwide, visiting our retail stores, representing us to the industry media, hanging out with our team riders, attending our sales meetings and events, and appearing and speaking on behalf of the company and our brands as often and as much as needed
What has been your greatest challenge in the past year, and what do you think that will be in 2013 – for Andy Mooney, especially?
2012 was challenging because of tough economic conditions in France, Spain and Australia. Also there was a lot of fear in the market place, so, consequently, there was more tendency for inventory dumping across all sectors, which created stress on margins. The conditions in 2013 will be similar, the tough economy continues, there is tremendous global unemployment for our target consumer.
We have total confidence in our three brands, our regional teams to execute and our ability to navigate through these tough times. We will continue to focus on our strategies.