Colin Lantz, who joined La Sportiva in 1992, has been named the new president of La Sportiva NA effective immediately. Ed Sampson, who is relinquishing the crown isn't leaving the company though, much to the relief of those who've worked under his leadership until today. Sampson is returning to the job he loves most -- being a rep and, more importantly, being a rep for the Northern California region.
"I'm a Cali guy at heart," Sampson told SNEWS in an exclusive interview. "When I first moved here, I tried for several years to rep and do the president's job, but that became too difficult. So, for the last six years, I've missed California and my friends there."
For Sampson, sales are where his heart beats most passionately, and it is not hard to hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he is talking about the opportunity he now has.
"When the California job became available last month, I told Mark (Day), 'I want my old job back.' I missed repping and missed my retailers and seeing some of them at the ROI show once a year was just not enough. For me, a rep's job is so rewarding because it is your job to help your retailers make money with your company's product line and I love that."
Sampson will be based in Boulder, Colo. He remains a shareholder and is on the company's board of directors.
Lantz, also a shareholder and on the board, told SNEWS that his promotion was merely a formality and was pretty much assumed all along. He also told us the business focus will remain the same as the company moves forward under new leadership.
"Ed has been building this team, this family, for a decade now and we feel really good about how our business works," said Lantz. "Ed and I have built this business and see eye-to-eye on where we need to go and have for some time."
In many ways, the U.S. business tries to mimic the success of the 75-year-old Italian parent, which is 100-percent family owned.
Consider that Lantz has been with the company for 11 years. Sampson for 14 years. Day left only during The North Face years (frustrating for everyone) and is now back. The company's controller has been there for 10 years. Few leave because, Lantz says, they are a family and they work together as a family.
And that teamwork spells success.
Indeed, since wresting itself from the choke-hold under the former (not the current) North Face regime, La Sportiva NA has grown 43 percent, averaging nearly 15 percent growth each year. Much of that growth has been realized, Sampson told us, because of its unique distribution agreement, which allows La Sportiva NA to operate an R&D office that develops products La Sportiva Italy wouldn't otherwise produce.
Under the direction of Heinz Mariacher, vice president of research and development, a La Sportiva NA board member and shareholder, and a 22-year veteran of La Sportiva, the U.S.-based company has launched product lines such as Mountain Running that are now being sold in Europe as well as here.
"It has been our focus since 2000, when we launched La Sportiva NA, to adopt categories that had a synergy with what we were doing and what the heritage of the company was," Lantz told us. "Ed and I go running to the Flatirons and then climb them, and then run back and you need sticky rubber to do that. Now our Mountain Running collection is being taken very seriously by not only outdoor shops but running shops too."
In fact, Sampson told us that it made him smile at the most recent ROI Early Show (see our related story this week) when retailers were telling him they expected to buy Mountain Running -- a far cry from several years ago when retailers were going, 'Now what are you trying to do?'"
SNEWS View: It's not too often one has an opportunity to do what you really want to do in life, without having to give up certain benefits or make life changes. Sampson should be smiling. He still is a company owner, he's still on the board, he's still very much a part of the inner circle, and yet now he gets to go out and do what he really loves -- rep, and no doubt hit the crags more often. Sportiva isn't missing a beat either with Lantz assuming the leadership role. There is and will remain a lot of Ed in everything everyone does at La Sportiva for sometime, and that's not a bad thing, nor is it a slight on those who are carrying on. This is, very much a family affair after all and that has never been more evident than right now.