John C. Walbrecht has left as brand president of Mountain Hardwear, the struggling subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear, to become president of Black Diamond, a subsidiary of Black Diamond Equipment. He will assume the new function on Oct. 3, taking the place of Mark Ritchie.
Bryan Timm, president of Columbia Sportswear, will take a more active role in the day-to-day management of the subsidiary while the group looks for the successor of Walbrecht, who has run Mountain Hardwear for only seven months. Columbia said he was leaving to pursue new opportunities closer to his family. While Mountain Hardwear is located in Richmond, California, BD has its head office in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Noted for a certain dynamism and his strategic vision in brand building with a fashion touch, he worked for Timberland, Gloria Vanderbilt and Dr. Martens for six years before entering the sporting goods business in 1998 as senior vice president of global sales and marketing for Spyder Active Sports and as president of Spyder Europe until 2005.
He then acted for six years as a partner and president of a company in Boulder, Colorado, Brandbase, launching brand-building projects for several snowboarding brands. Walbrecht subsequently spent four years as president and chief executive of Fenix Outdoor North America, contributing to its strong progress in the region, before his last short station at the head of Mountain Hardwear, where he was given the task of repositioning the brand, improving its product range. He had already started to create some positive vibes in the market at last month's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
It will be interesting to see whether Walbrecht will lead BD's board of directors to change the brand's strategies or those of the group behind it. We wonder, for example, whether the company will want to use his expertise to expand again BD's apparel line, re-orienting it toward the lifestyle segment of the outdoor market.
Ritchie has agreed to assist Walbrecht in the transition. BD says he will be working with the executive team in additional ways in the future. Ritchie has spent about 21 years with the group. He was promoted last Jan. 1 from the role of chief operating officer to president, following the retirement of Peter Metcalf.