Exel Sports Brands (ESB), which owns the Exel brand for sports products, is preparing to launch a footwear range under this well-know trade name, concentrating on Nordic walking and outdoor shoes. ESB is entirely owned by Pertti Keskitalo, chief executive and shareholder of Karhu Sporting Goods Oy (KSG), the Finnish company that formerly owned the Karhu brand. The sale of the Karhu brand to Karhu Holding BV, a Dutch-based company, caused a bitter row last year between the two entities. Under a settlement reached between them earlier this year, the Dutch company owns the rights to the Karhu brand and is using it most intensely for running and outdoor footwear, while KSG obtained a license to make Karhu branded skis, ski boots and poles. Separately, Keskitalo acquired the rights for Exel sports products and set up ESB Oy, with a fully owned subsidiary in Germany, ESB GmbH. KSG takes care of the Karhu branded ski products, while ESB handles the Exel business along with the Yoko brand of cheaper poles, as well as distribution rights for some other brands. ESB GmbH sells the Rukka and Bama brands in Germany and Austria, and Swany in Germany, while ESB Oy sells Swany in Sweden and Finland. Exel footwear is to hit stores next year in Germany, Austria, Sweden and Finland, where ESB already has a sales infrastructure. A European roll-out should take place in 2012, targeting sports stores rather than outdoor specialists.