As we had indicated in our previous issue, Black Diamond is closing its European office near Basel in Switzerland. Only seven of its 40-odd employees will stay with the company and move to Innsbruck, the vibrant outdoor city in Austria chosen as the new venue, including two managers, Craig Foster and Stephan Hagenbusch. They will be part of a new four-person European management team headed up by Tim Bantle.
Bantle, who was dispatched to Europe late last year to oversee the reorganization process, will be the new managing director of Black Diamond Equipment's European operations. He will take the place of Olav Nietzer, who will leave the company after a transition period. Formerly in charge of European sales at BD, Nietzer had replaced Christian Jaeggi in that position in mid-2014.
Bantle had been acting since 2014 as president of the BDE brand, responsible for product, sales and marketing at the company's head office in Salt Lake City. In his new role, he will report to Mark Ritchie, recently promoted to president and chief operating officer of BDE.
Foster, BD Europe's current director of management information systems, will also take care of logistics, warranty and customer service in his new role as European director of operations and IT. Hagenbusch, who became BD Europe's marketing manager in December 2014, after five years as marketing manager of Amer Sports for Central Europe, will take on the new position of director of strategic accounts and marketing for BD Europe.
One of Hagenbusch's tasks will be to develop relations with buying groups and other key accounts. Another one will be to better organize marketing operations based on the different distribution channels. This is part of a strategic decision to shift in Europe from a geographical and category sales management model to a distribution and channel-focused model.
The two other members of the management team will be Georg Hoffberger, who is taking the position of director of finance, and a sales director who has yet to be appointed. Hoffberger comes from Pieps, the supplier of snow safety gear that BD has decided to keep in its portfolio, after divesting Gregory Mountain Products and Poc Sweden.
Nietzer and other former executives of BD Europe have agreed to help in the transition process. BD Europe is recruiting new staff locally for more than 35 positions across sales, marketing, customer service, operations and finance. The new office is expected to become operational in May.
The fact that Pieps is based in an Austrian town, Lebring, was one of the reasons for the choice of Austria as the new location for BD Europe, rather than Germany or another European country. Besides, BD Europe has a dealer service and warranty team based in Salzburg and a partner manufacturer for its skis in the region. It sponsors a Tyrolian climber, Babsi Zangeri, and an Austrian skier, Thomas Gaisbacher.
Innsbruck, which also hosts Burton Europe, is a university town and an international destination for climbing, backcountry skiing and other mountain sports, placing BD closer to its largest markets.
BD says it will seek to reinforce its global leadership in climbing, focusing on the emerging gym-climbing customer. The company wants to continue to develop its lighting business and innovate in core product categories such as skis, snow safety and apparel for climbers, alpinists and backcountry skiers. The apparel collection that it is offering for next autumn is mainly directed at these types of customers. It includes a versatile, insulated jacket, dubbed the “First Light Hoody.”