Keen Inc. named Accell North America CEO Steve Meineke as its new president late Tuesday, tasking the former head of Raleigh Cycles, Diamondback and Lapierre to grow the Portland, Ore.-based brand globally and diversify its customer reach and products.
Meineke, who will start at Keen on June 1 — making a relatively short Pacific Northwest move from Seattle to Portland — is Keen’s second new president in as many years, since its former CEO and president James Curleigh left the company for Levi Stauss in May 2012, and Mike Abbot served a short stint as Keen president in 2013. In-between Keen Founder Rory Fuerst has filled both roles and will remain CEO.
Despite the two-year span, Keen officials told SNEWS they’ve found the perfect fit in Meineke, who has had three decades of executive leadership through self-described "marathon" brand relationships, including ten total years with Raleigh and Accell (2004-2014) seven years at Salomon North America (1980-1987), six years as CEO of Misson Hockey (1996-2002), plus three years each at Specialized, Nordica and Vuarnet- France (1987-1996).
“We’ve built a solid foundation for Keen as we enter our second decade and we needed just the right leader to pull all of our initiatives together and drive the business forward,” said Ron Hill, Keen’s vice president of product merchandising and marketing. “Steve is that leader.”
Meineke, who spoke exclusively to SNEWS just before announcement, described the new job at Keen as the “very best opportunity in his career,” to work with a single-brand company that is out to leave a long-term legacy.
“It’s exciting to be with an authentic brand whose passion and energy is in innovating product,” Meineke said. “In just over a decade, Keen has been able to establish a strong brand platform. Not just a product platform, but an entire brand platform.”
Meineke said he and Fuerst have known each other since 1991, and he’s “had the good fortune to watch Keen grow” in its first decade of business.
“There’s a new chapter, here.” Meineke said. “We have a lot to make happen. Keen has always engaged outdoor fans, while widening the base … whether it be in the water, the mountains or the city.” Up next is a global push for the brand, where it has already laid the expansion groundwork in Europe and Asia, as well as potential to grow Keen’s budding product categories of clothing, socks, and bags, beyond just its well-known footwear.
“Through his leadership experience and business intelligence, Steve will help establish a framework for go-to-market alignment and will help Keen appeal to new consumers through a broadened definition of the outdoors,” Hill said.
In the United States, Keen has been an early outdoor leader in the revitalization of domestic manufacturing with its own facility in Portland (an asset Meineke called a “competitive advantage”), which recently expanded its footprint to handle Keen’s “American Built” Durand boots.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be part of brands that are in growth or innovator modes,” Meineke said, noting the Raleigh Group doubled its business in eight years.
Along with the growth, Meineke’s resume includes plenty of acquisitions and mergers, but he strongly emphasized that a top attractor to Keen was that the M&A game was out of the picture.
“What I like about Keen is that there is no distraction or ambition for acquisition or a sale [of the business],” Meineke said. “There’s a single-brand legacy strategy.”
So is Meineke up for another marathon brand relationship, especially later in his career?
“I see this as an opportunity of a lifetime,” Meineke said. "I like to tell people I’m a 29-year-old in a 60-year-old body.”