Following a corporate conflict between its original founders and its subsequent financial backers, Bask, the well-known Russian producer and retailer of outdoor products, has disintegrated into two outwardly identical enterprises, ZAO Bask and NPF Bask, that are now running two different businesses and are owned by different parties. Confusingly similar labels are now tagged on similar products by the two companies, which are fiercely competing against each other.
ZAO Bask and its chain of corporate stores, called Aktivny Otdykh (Russian for Active Rest), are now controlled by Eagle Venture Partners, a fund owned by a leading Belgian investment company, Gimv, that currently manages a portfolio representing around €1.8 billion worth of assets worldwide. Eagle Venture had acquired a significant stake in Bask in 2007.
The other company, NPF Bask, was established more recently by the founders of the former Bask, the brothers Vladimir and Sergey Bogdanov. Vladimir Bogdanov, a well-known personality who has been for many years the president of the Russian Outdoor Group, claims that he and his brother were simply cheated by the investment company, which left them without any shares and with no influence in the company’s management.
However, a Russian business newspaper, Kommersant, has reported that, due to the recent financial crisis, which hit Russian enterprises very hard, the Bogdanov brothers were unable to reimburse a $1 million loan given by the investor and mortgaged on their shares. The Bogdanov brothers claim that they tried to take Eagle Venture Partners to court, but instead of spending money on lawyers with a risk of losing the case, they instead decided to resurrect the original company.
The divorce between the founders and the investors occurred a year ago, but the conflict reached public attention only during the recent Ski Salon trade show in Moscow. As it turns out now, while the Bogdanov brothers describe the outlook of their business as bright and wish to continue to own it, the investors who control ZAO Bask want to cash out.
The Russian outdoor market has begun to recover only recently and is now relatively stable after a decline of about 20 percent in the middle of the crisis, which left many distributors of foreign brands without any money to pay for new orders.
Before the divorce, Bask’s annual turnover had grown up to €9.9 million. Bask and Redfox had become the two leading Russian outdoor companies. The Bask brand had been just as popular as foreign brands such as Nike among consumers in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Bask was a synonym of top-quality quilted outerwear and sleeping bags, with an increasing recognition at the international level.
At the moment consumers are surprised that, even though the two companies split a year ago, their product ranges continue to differ mostly in the logos. For instance, both are offering a winter coat named Alaska V2 on their own online shops, Bask.ru and Baskcompany.ru, yet the first one is 12 % cheaper than the other one.
Each of the two Basks is now projecting revenues of €4.2 million for this year. ZAO Bask manages the Aktivny Otdykh chain of stores in addition to its wholesale business. NPF Bask does not have any stores, but sells its products online and at partners' stores. It works with 12 different manufacturers, persuading them to work more for the Bogdanovs than for their direct competitor.