Gregory moving again…but what does this mean for the brand?

With Black Diamond Equipment announcing the move and integration of Gregory to Salt Lake City, what will Gregory 7.0 look like? SNEWS has exclusive insight on just what impact the move from Sacramento to Salt Lake City will mean to the brand, and what impacts it will have on employees, and others.
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The Black Diamond Equipment 2.0 integration has ultimately resulted in Gregory Mountain Products version 7.0 as the company is picking up yet again for another move…hopefully, its last.

As was announced first in SNEWS® on Aug. 17, the Gregory brand is moving yet again, this time to Salt Lake City to take up residence in a separate space that is being renovated for it on the Black Diamond campus (click here to read the news release from Black Diamond).

However, while many in the industry speculated that there was no doubt Gregory would be moving once Black Diamond announced the company’s acquisition on May 10, 2010 (click here to read the SNEWS story, “Black Diamond, Gregory acquired by Clarus Corp."), Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond, told us the decision was no fait accompli.

“In June, the senior team at Gregory, along with the senior team at Clarus and myself, met to decide strategy and future, and it was completely borderline whether we would make any decision to move the company,” said Metcalf. “Ultimately, it was only after listing all the advantages and disadvantages on a white board that everyone agreed moving Gregory to Salt Lake City was the best thing to do for the medium- and long-term benefit of the company.”

Metcalf told us that when the deal was first announced to the Gregory employees, he was very straightforward in explaining that the deal, which involved the acquisition of Gregory, and the taking public of Black Diamond as the parent company, was “unique, exciting and held incredible promise.” At the same time, part of the vision, which involved finding synergy between the companies, would result in an integration that would lead to job reductions of some sort.

“The Gregory team is a team made up of first-class individuals -- every one of them. And while the news for them was not without its pain, they all were incredibly professional and as positive as one could imagine when I spoke with them today,” Metcalf told us by phone on Aug. 17.

Noting that the company had just moved from Temecula, Calif., two years earlier and essentially reconstituted itself over that time with tremendous effort and focus, Metcalf told SNEWS that Gregory 7.0, as some have jokingly called the latest incarnation, is the final version. “This is coming home for Gregory, to us. By joining the Black Diamond team in Salt Lake City, they are coming to a home that welcomes them as another iconic company, and understands exactly what the brand is talking about when it talks about commitment to outdoor specialty and passion for the outdoors,” Metcalf said.

“I promised every one of them that they are coming to a place where the Black Diamond employees share the same ethos and passions, and that the campus they will becoming part of is vibrant,” added Metcalf. “Anyone who is passionate about the Gregory brand can trust that we will build on what the current staff has so wonderfully created and it will be super exciting to see.”

SNEWS was told that 20 of the 40 employees now at Gregory in Sacramento have been offered relocation packages, and another five will most likely be offered jobs (though not in the same positions). Of the 15 or so that will not be making the move, Metcalf told us that the company put together a generous retention and severance package that includes each employee staying with the company through Jan. 1, 2011, at which point a minimum two-month severance package kicks in -- longer depending on tenure.

Both Metcalf and acting Gregory CEO Gray Hudkins are buoyant about the fact that all but one of the existing Gregory senior management team have committed to make the move to Salt Lake City.

Sadly for everyone, we were told, Jim BoisD’Enghien, director of sales and marketing for Gregory, has opted not to make the transition to Salt Lake City.

“Unfortunately for me, the transition timing is not one that works at the moment as I have three boys in school, with one going into his junior year in high school,” BoisD’Enghien told SNEWS. “He’s really embedded in the community and the athletic programs, and I have moved my family around a lot recently…I’m just not going to do that to them again.

“I let Peter know yesterday that I am fully committed to this team through January when the move is complete, and will be helping all I can with the integration and transition as I want to be fully satisfied that our dealers and reps, and the business we have all worked so hard on, are set up for complete success going forward.”

BoisD’Enghien added, “I know it was hard for Peter in breaking the news. But it is part of the nature of acquisitions. Black Diamond certainly went about it very thoughtfully and carefully, and worked extremely diligently to ensure they maintained as much of the business and cultural DNA as possible.”

When the move is complete, Gregory will be housed in a completely renovated space, the former Black Diamond tool room, which will feature natural lighting, its own entrance, and its own branded look and feel. (Renovation began Aug. 18 as the former tool room was cleaned out, and prepped for a serious makeover -- photo to the right).

“The goal is to create an interesting space for the product, marketing, sales, R&D and prototype lab folks to enjoy, and one they do not have to climb over ice tools to get there,” Hudkins told us.

When asked why a January 2011 date was set as the final move deadline, Hudkins told us that any earlier than that was not doable as the team needs to focus 100 percent on the final design and development and, as he put it, commercialization, of product between now and Jan. 1. “In January, our entire product line for next season’s delivery is in the hands of the supply chain, but until then, any interruption to our product team’s concentration and focus is just unacceptable.”

In addition to the announced Gregory move into Salt Lake City, Gregory in Europe is undergoing a similar, though not identical, integration into the Black Diamond platform. Thanks in large part to Black Diamond’s existing and wholly-owned operational and distribution structure in Europe, Gregory will immediately be able to take advantage of existing human resources, customer service, IT and operational synergy. That will allow the brand, which is currently hiring a product brand manager for Europe, to focus on developing a marketing and sales network that can tap into existing sale agencies.

“It is a huge advantage for Gregory now in expanding our brand presence in Europe,” said Metcalf. “And likewise we have the same synergy in Asia. Gregory, like Black Diamond, will soon become a strong global brand.”

With Gregory now moving to the Black Diamond campus, we wondered what other companies might soon be added to the mix. Metcalf allowed that there is another 10,000 square feet of space that could be remodeled or built out, including one area where the company has a building permit that has not been executed yet; however, there are no immediate plans for expansion, or other separate and major acquisitions.

“At some point, I could see us doing an acquisition where we are integrating finance, credit, IT, supply chain management and human resources here in the BD campus, but not necessarily locating the group of designers and sales teams,” said Metcalf. “It all really depends on the company, its positioning in the market and what is best in terms of an integration strategy.”

In the meantime, Metcalf told us that he does envision certain acquisitions that are true tuck-ins like Black Diamond’s acquisition of Bibler in 1996. “Brands like that become part of the Black Diamond brand, as Bibler did then,” Metcalf said, “and I can certainly see us doing more of those types of acquisitions moving forward.”

--Michael Hodgson

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