Polartec CEO to step down; brand contemplates sale

Changes are ahead for fabric/insulation brand Polartec as the company announced Monday that its CEO Andrew Vecchione plans to step down, also hinting the business will go up for sale. SNEWS has the news and analysis.

Changes are ahead for fabric/insulation brand Polartec as the company announced Monday that its president and CEO Andrew Vecchione plans to step down, also hinting the business will go up for sale.

Vecchione, who has been with Lawrence, Mass.-based Polartec for eight years, the past five leading the brand, will switch to being a senior adviser once a successor has been named, officials said. He will also remain a Polartec board member and equity partner.

Polartec promoted Vecchione to its top spot in 2007, shortly after Versa Capital Management bought the brand out of the Malden Mills bankruptcy. As is practice with many venture capital ownerships, officials said they are contemplating “an eventual sale of the company in the future.”

“Polartec has reached an inflection point in its history as our growth has accelerated and it’s important to have a leader in place for a sufficient time beforehand who both understands and can capitalize on Polartec’s unique attributes and can commit to leading the business over the much longer term” Vecchione said in a press release.

Company officials said Polartec has brought in record sales, earnings and customer satisfaction levels under Vecchione’s leadership. But rougher times could be ahead in the near term for Polartec, and insulation brands in general, on two fronts — the effects of this past season’s weak winter will become fully evident later this fall, while impending U.S. government cutbacks — the so-called fiscal cliff — is bound to dampen the brand’s significant military sales.

“It was a tough winter from a weather standpoint in North America and Europe, and there was an impact,” Polartec spokesman Nate Simmons said. “I think any apparel brand or retailer would tell you that. The weather-dependency of our business is inevitable.” When asked about the U.S. government side of the business, Simmons said the military has driven key innovation that has trickled down to the outdoor industry. “They are an incredibly important customer,” adding that the company is working in Washington D.C. “to keep supplying troops with the best equipment they can get, no matter how many or where they are.”

Simmons said there was no correlation to Vecchione’s departure and some of those upcoming challenges. He noted that Polartec Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jon Adelman, a stalwart figure within the brand and industry, will remain on board. Polartec employs 1,000 people worldwide. The company has retained Korn/Ferry International to search for Vecchione’s replacement and said a new CEO will be in place by the end of this year.

Beyond financial performance, Vecchoine might best be credited for overseeing Polartec’s entry into waterproof/breathable market with its NeoShell fabric hitting shelves earlier this year. The company produces a range of performance fabrics, from wicking base layers to insulation outerwear.

--David Clucas



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