Jakob Oberrauch, 25, is the new managing director of Sportler, the big Italian chain of sporting goods stores. Together with his sister Elisabeth, who will act as his deputy, he has taken over the reins from his father Georg, who believes in giving more responsibility to young people. Georg, who will be 59 next Dec. 11, is not going to rest, however.

Georg Oberrauch will continue to run Sport Alliance, the Italian buying group controlled by Sportler, and will be involved in more than 20 other projects including the family's wine-making business and church-related activities. One of these projects is the establishment of a big shopping mall in the center of Bolzano together with 20 other entrepreneurs, provided that municipal authorities prefer it to a rival project presented last November by René Benko, the Austrian real estate magnate who recently acquired control of Karstadt Sports in Germany. Benko's proposal is reportedly stalled pending an investigation into alleged corruption charges in Austria.

Georg Oberrauch and his younger brother Heiner set up the first Sportler store in Bolzano in 1977. Georg has been running and expanding the Sportler chain since then. For his part, Heiner set up Oberalp in 1981 and continues to run it. Oberalp owns Salewa, Dynafit, Wild Country and other brands. It is also the distributor in Italy of many sports brands it doesn't own.

The Sportler chain has 17 stores in Italy and three in Austria, plus its web shop. They employ more than 500 people and cover a total sales area of 47,000 square meters. Since two years ago, it has owned Bergzeit, a German online retailer of outdoor products that operates also two brick-and-mortar stores in its country. The company's annual sales are estimated at around €100 million.

Jakob says he wants to reinforce Sportler's “Best in the Alps” claim and expand its multi-channel approach to the market. It will be forcefully implemented by next October at Sportler's main store in Bolzano, which is getting a facelift. The store will be expanded from 3,500 to 3,700 square meters with the addition of another floor.

A management graduate of Milan's Bocconi University, Jakob has been collecting a lot of experience with internships at Engelhorn Sport in Germany, which is a member of the Euro Family group of outdoor retailers along with Sportler, and at Liz Claiborne in the U.S.  He has also worked in China, Bangladesh and Vietnam in the sourcing of Euro Family's private label products, and at a commercial office in Shanghai.