Timberland buys SmartWool

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Steamboat Springs-based SmartWool, a well-known manufacturer of high-quality merino wool socks, has been acquired by one of the giants in the outdoor clothing industry.

The Timberland Co. announced late Monday night that it had reached an agreement to purchase 100 percent of the outstanding stock of privately held SmartWool Corp. for an estimated $82 million. Timberland is based in Stratham, N.H. Best known for its rugged field boots, the company makes a full line of footwear including oxford and boat-style shoes. The company also markets casual clothing, including sweaters, shirts and pants. Timberland trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol TBL. Its shares closed at $31.02 on Monday. Timberland reported revenues of $1.56 billion last year.

A statement released by Timberland indicated SmartWool would continue to be based in Steamboat, operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Timberland Co. SmartWool President Chip Coe will remain in his position.

SmartWool's 2005 revenues are anticipated to be about $42 million excluding sales of Timberland footwear with SmartWool linings. Timberland has established worldwide sales networks on several continents that presumably would give SmartWool improved access to foreign markets.

"SmartWool and Timberland share a common heritage as authentic brands grounded in functional and purposeful innovation, and our initial footwear collaboration demonstrates SmartWool's widespread consumer appeal," said Jeffrey B. Swartz, Timberland's president and chief executive officer.

SmartWool was founded here by former New England ski instructors Peter and Patty Duke in 1994. They grew their brand recognition with a grass-roots marketing campaign that depended heavily on putting the socks on people's feet, even if that meant giving away many pairs of socks. RAF Industries of Philadelphia acquired a majority interest in the company in 1995 and purchased the Dukes' interest in February 2003. RAF is a holding company, which invests in existing companies and lends management expertise.

SmartWool has operated for several years from the remodeled Steamboat Springs Airport Terminal. Its product lines have expanded to other wool garments including base layers for outdoor athletes. SmartWool first partnered with Timberland early this year to develop and market performance footwear featuring SmartWool linings.

"We are very excited to expand our relationship with Timberland. We are passionate about our brand," Coe said in a prepared statement.

"Timberland's brand-building heritage, operational expertise and commitment to community will enable SmartWool to better serve our loyal and growing consumer base through expanded offerings of socks, apparel and accessories to reach our full potential as part of the Timberland organization."

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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