Knut Are Høgberg has been appointed to take over as chief executive at Odlo, the Swiss outdoor brand, after nearly three years as chief operating officer and deputy CEO. He has formally taken over this month from Christophe Bézu, who has driven far-reaching adjustments in the Swiss outdoor brand's distribution strategy in the same period.
As previously reported, Odlo was projecting a sales increase of about 20 percent to over 120 million Swiss francs (€103.2m-$120.3m) for the year until the end of June. Bézu reshaped the business to focus more on the largest markets and key accounts. With this strategy in place, Odlo says that Høgberg should make the company more efficient and drive more value creation in the years ahead.
Bézu joined Odlo's supervisory board in February 2015 and he switched to the executive leadership in September that year. It was agreed at the time that he would stay about three years to provide fresh impetus to the brand.
Høgberg joined Odlo around the same time after nine years with the Boston Consulting Group and another eight at Helly Hansen. For his last two years at the Norwegian sailing and outdoor company, Høgberg was chief operating officer and global retail director, working from its head office in Oslo and from Seattle.
The transition comes as Odlo may have to prepare for a change of ownership. It was taken over in 2010 by Herkules Capital, a Norwegian investment firm, which is a relatively long stretch of ownership for such an investment. A few days ago Herkules said that it divested Didriksons, a Swedish company specialized in weather-proof outdoor apparel, in which it acquired a majority stake in 2014.
A former executive at the Adidas Group and Esprit, Bézu agreed to take the leadership three years ago to drive an adjustment in Odlo's strategic direction. He wanted Odlo to regain some ground in the performance underwear market, while broadening the appeal of the brand by diversifying price points. It was said at the time that Herkules was prepared to invest €35 million in Odlo over three years to support such improvements.
Bézu will return to Odlo's supervisory board but he is most likely to move back to Asia – to take up another permanent assignment in the region or to work on shorter assignments in Europe. Bézu is on the board of two other companies: Gemba, which specializes in marketing and strategy in the sports and entertainment sectors; and Beckmann, a Norwegian supplier of backpacks for primary school children, owned by Herkules.