Peter Benjamin steps down as COO and president of Deckers

Deckers Outdoor Corp. (Nasdaq: DECK) has announced that Peter Benjamin, president and COO, will be resigning from the company, effective Jan. 1, 2003.
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While the official company statement implies that Benjamin will remain an employee of Deckers, SNEWS has learned that is not correct. Benjamin is, in fact, the president of Pacific Resources, a Japanese-based company that provides marketing, sourcing and distribution services to other companies in Asia. Pacific Resources, in turn, manages the Asian sales operations for Deckers. Pacific Resources is also in a joint venture with Outlast, running a business called Outlast Asia. Benjamin told SNEWS that once he rejoins the Pacific Resources full time in January, he will be focusing on other business opportunities as well.

Benjamin told SNEWS, "Deckers is a wonderful company with great brands and great people and I am going to miss the day-to-day interaction with them very much."

In the company news release, Doug Otto, company CEO, is quoted as saying, "Peter's leadership and direction during the past several years cannot be understated. He has been a vital contributor to our restructuring and a major force behind improving our operating platform. We now believe we have the right pieces in place to support future growth and subsequently, we made the strategic decision to have Peter work on expanding our sales efforts in the growing and under-penetrated Asian marketplace. I will miss working directly with Peter on a day-to-day basis, however, I look forward to his increased involvement in our international operations."

Deckers brands include Ugg, Simple and Teva.

SNEWS View: Prior to being brought in-house by CEO Doug Otto to assume the positions of chief operating officer in 1999 and president in 2000, Benjamin?s company, Pacific Resources, ran Deckers' Asian sales operations -- so really this move is simply Benjamin returning to his former contractual relationship with Deckers. That relationship is by no means exclusive. Benjamin's impact on Deckers cannot be understated. In looking at the public records, prior to Benjamin's arrival in 1999, the company was $38 million in the red. By the end of 2001, that had reversed to the point the company could boast $25 million in the bank and zero debt load. While Otto will be taking over as president, he has big shoes to fill in our view. True, he has a great staff under him. True too he has great brands. However, looking at the historical picture, that may not be enough. We perused the public records and articles prior to the company going public to arrive at the following startling fact: While the company experienced near meteoric growth from 1990 to 1995, the sales graph has remained essentially flat-line since. Picture this: In 1990, sales were around $6 million. By 1995, sales had climbed to $102 million. In 1996, sales were flat at $102 million. In 1997, sales inched up to $107 million. In 1998, sales dipped to 1995 levels at $102 million. In 1999, sales jumped to $110 million, then rose slightly again to $114 million in 2000. But then came 2001 and a sales drop to $91 million (granted that was influenced somewhat by 9-11, the loss of Picante, and other economic factors). Company projections place sales between $90 million to $95 million for 2002 -- probably toward the upper end analysts tell us. Without Benjamin, who was tremendously respected by his staff both for his sense of integrity and his vision, we wonder what that will mean for Deckers and the future growth of the company in terms of innovation, branding and sales. Surely Asia will do well since his hand will be firmly on that button. As for the rest of the world?s Time will tell. For those who want to stay in touch with Benjamin, his email is pbenjamin@worldnet.att.net.

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