Sanük Secures New Investors

On June 19 it was announced that Bob Rief and John Vance had become investors in the Sanük brand and would be taking over the day-to-day management of the company. Sanük President Jeff Kelley, who still owns the trademark, will continue to oversee the creative development of the product and the vibe of the brand.

Interestingly, this does not mark an end to the ten-year licensing agreement Sanük has with C&C Companies — which also designs, manufactures, and markets Rusty’s apparel program. C&C will continue to provide manufacturing fulfillment and invoicing services. Indeed, the addition of Rief and Vance marks a period of renewed investment in Sanük by C&C.

“C&C has been good from an infrastructure standpoint, but Sanük has grown, and we’ve hit a ceiling with the management of the company,” says Kelley. “You can have good product, but if you don’t have the rest of the wheels turning, you’re only going to go so far. Now, with Bob {Rief} and John {Vance}, we’ll finally have the attention the brand needs — while still being able to tap into C&C’s strengths.”

Rief will serve as general manager, and Vance will head up the sales and marketing efforts. Both have long résumés in the footwear or action-sports industries. Rief, who jokes he’d like to give Dick Baker a run as the “oldest man in the surf industry,” ran Merrell footwear, helped launch Nike’s golf program, and was most recently the CEO of Reef. Vance also has more than twenty years’ experience and has held positions at Quiksilver, Op, and Airwalk.

“I’m stoked about it,” says Kelley. “Having these guys step in, and seeing the ad budgets increased, and knowing we’re going to be able to promote the brand on the consumer level as well as with the trade, is super exciting. It’s good to have people like this to work with.”

After Rief left Reef, he says he spent a lot of time looking at the market from a retail perspective. What he saw convinced him that Sanük was a big opportunity waiting to happen. “Maybe the big guys in some of the categories have too much market share,” he says. “It’s hard to defend market share. When I looked at Sanük, I saw fresh, creative product that’s not derived from competitors — and also a brand that was entirely authentic.”

Both Kelley and Rief are former employees of Reef, so does this cash infusion mark a renewed rivalry between the heads of both companies? “Our message with this brand is that we’re not trying to beat Reef,” says Rief. “We’re simply an alternative to a company that has a huge market share.”