Massimo Baratto, the 55-year-old Italian brand-building expert who is running Oberalp, is going to leave the South Tirolean company at the end of April to run the European operations of Under Armour, the big American sports brand, replacing the incumbent vice president and European managing director, Chris Bates. He and his wife, who is Dutch, will move from Bolzano to Amsterdam together with their children.
Baratto is leaving Oberalp on good terms with the founder and president of the family-owned group, Heiner Oberrauch, after 17 years during which its sales have grown from about €45 million to more than €200 million. Together, they have already started to look for the company's future chief executive, who will be working with a strong team of middle managers.
During Baratto's tenure, Oberalp has built up a strong portfolio of house brands, led by Salewa and Dynafit and recently boosted by the acquisition of Pomoca and Wild Country. It has set up ten subsidiaries including sales offices in France, the Czech Republic, Poland and the U.S., and it has enlisted two strong licensees, K2 for the two leading brands in South Korea and Tutwo for Salewa in Mainland China.
Oberalp has also acquired the distribution rights for many important sports brands in the Italian market including Fischer, Spyder, Rip Curl, Speedo and, most recently, Under Armour. It only represented Löffler and F2 when Baratto joined the company. With the addition of Under Armour, which will generate sales of more than €15 million in Italy this year, the wholesale business represents more than 20 percent of Oberalp's total turnover.
Together with Oberrauch, Baratto has developed new ideas and taken courageous decisions like Oberalp's pullout from the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen and Ispo Munich.
Bought in 1990 by Oberalp, which previously distributed the brand in Italy, Salewa is now generating annual sales of more than €100 million. According to Baratto, it has become a pure and authentic mountain brand from the Eastern Alps that appeals to a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts, including millennial consumers with its “hike and fly” campaign. It has developed original products such as a wool insulation based on the local loden fabric.
Dynafit has become a leading brand in the growing ski touring segment, with a wide range of high-performance products. It was only producing ski bindings in 2003, when it was taken over by Oberalp. Since then, the brand's sales have risen from less than €7 million a year to about €55 million.
As for Wild Country, the brand is still in the process of being repositioned by its new owner in a higher segment of the climbing market with a very selective distribution policy and the launch of new technical products including its first climbing shoes, developed with Michelin.
Likewise, Under Armour is still in the starting blocks when it comes to its presence in Europe and other international markets outside North America, which currently represent slightly more than 20 percent of its global sales. In spite of a high rate of assisted notoriety, its sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region will be less than €500 million this year for this young American challenger to Nike and Adidas, which had total revenues of $4.8 billion in 2016. As reported in SGI Europe, the EMEA region started to generate an operating profit in the second quarter of 2017. In the third quarter, Under Armour's total sales declined by 5 percent, due to an unexpected 12.1 percent drop in North America, after many years of strong growth, but they went up by 21.7 percent to $127.9 million in EMEA.
Baratto, who has been practicing many different sports including basketball and running, worked hard to obtain the distribution of Under Armour in Italy last year, setting the target of a turnover of €100 million in the medium term. In all the other major European markets, the brand has established its own sales offices, most recently in Spain and France. Oberalp has opened two full-price stores and two outlets for Under Armour in Italy.
Baratto will report to Charlie Maurath, a former executive of Adidas who is in charge of international sales. Baratto's recruitment comes after numerous changes of management at Under Armour's head office in Baltimore. The most important one was the appointment a few months ago of a new president and chief operating officer, Patrik Frisk, a Swedish manager who worked for about ten years for The North Face and other brands of VF Corporation, to help Kevin Plank, founder and chief executive of the company. Prior to joining VF, Frisk worked for Peak Performance and W.L. Gore & Associates.
In the past few weeks, Under Armour has also appointed top managers in charge of product development, connected fitness and communication. More in SGI Europe.