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1914: MacRae Knitting Mills opens a factory in Sydney, Australia, to manufacture knitted cotton and woolen underwear and knitwear under the Fortitude brand. The name borrows from the meaning of the Macrae family crest.
This story first appeared in the July 18, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
1918: With business on the move, the factory relocates to a larger space in Camperdown. The company renames itself MacRae Knitting Mills Ltd.
1922: Expansion continues, so the company moves into a three-floor factory in Newtown, where it remains for 34 years.
1928: The Speedo name is coined by a former sea captain who wins a staff-wide competition to name the swimsuits.
1929: His winning slogan, “Speed on in your Speedo,” prompts MacRae Knitting Mills to change its name. Speedo swimwear is first produced.
1937: Speedo Knitting Mills Pty Ltd. is formed as a parent company and signs a licensing deal with Coopers Inc., a Kenosha, Wisc.-based company, to produce and market Jockey men’s underwear in Australia. Speedo replaces Fortitude with the Jockey brand.
1939-45: Speedo turns over most of its manufacturing to war production.
1947: Speedo opens a factory in Windsor, Australia, due to increased demand.
1951: Speedo Knitting Mills (Holdings) Ltd. is incorporated and becomes a publicly traded company on the Sydney Stock Exchange.
1956: Speedo Knitting Mills moves into a new corporate headquarters and factory, one of the most modern knitting mills in the Southern Hemisphere.
1959: The company begins exporting to the U.S and Canada. An international division is set up to oversee exports to other countries and licensees in New Zealand, Japan and South Africa. With sales building with the U.K. subsidiary, Speedo buys 30 percent of the ordinary capital of Robert Shaw and Co. Ltd. of Nottingham, England. Shaw then handles manufacturing and production for Speedo products in Western Europe.
1972: Speedo ups its stake in Shaw to 51 percent and renews a licensing deal with Mizuno Corp. for manufacturing and distribution in Japan. The company also acquires more of Robert Shaw and Co. Speedo supplies swimwear to 52 Olympic teams at the Munich Games.
1974: Speedo acquires the balance of Shaw’s ordinary capital. Speedo Canada is established.
1976: New offices open in Amsterdam and Montreal. El-Gal (Sports) Ltd. of Israel begins making and distributing Speedo products in that country.
1977: Zelengora of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, gets the nod to distribute Speedo products in Yugoslavia and Eastern European countries.
1978: Speedo products lines up a deal with Brassport Representacoes to sell its products in Brazil.
1979: Warners de Mexico SA becomes Speedo’s licensee for Mexico.
1979-81: Distribution expands to Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland through licenses.
1980: Speedo acquires the Gloria group of companies and 44.9 percent of the equity in Formfit of Australia Ltd.
1981: Speedo picks up Formfit’s remaining balance of shares. The company acquires a 50 percent interest in Kentucky Textiles of the U.S. and Carlton Place Textiles of Canada.
1982: Speedo Deutchland GmbH is incorporated in Germany as a subsidiary of Speedo Europe to distribute the brand.
1983: Hirsch Weis USA takes over as licensee for the U.S.
1983-86: Consolidation gets under way in Australia and in other areas.
1986: AFP Corp. takes over Speedo Australia and Speedo International and merges them into the Linter Group of Cos.
1986-87: AFP acquires Speedo and separates its international division from its Australian manufacturing company for tax purposes. Speedo’s 50 percent share in Kentucky Textiles, manufacturing contractor for Hirsch Weis USA, is bought by the other partner, Wayne Shumate. Warnaco Inc., the owner of Hirsch Weis, is granted a perpetual license. Speedo Ltd. of Nottingham, the European arm, is sold to Crowther Ltd., and a perpetual license is granted.
1988: Through Parkston Holdings, Abraham Golberg acquires the Linter Group from AFP and merges it with his textile group, Entrad. The textile and apparel companies are lumped under Linter Textile Corp.
1991: Speedo Group is sold to Pentland Group plc and Speedo Australia is formed as a separate company. Pentland purchases a controlling interest in Speedo Europe and Speedo USA, effectively bringing the brand under one management team for the first time since 1986.
1992: Speedo releases the S2000 competition swimsuits at the Barcelona Olympic Games and 53 percent of all swimming medals are won by Speedo-clad athletes.
1996: Speedo dominates the Atlanta Summer Olympics with 72 percent of all gold medal winners wearing Speedo.
1997: Speedo International announces plans to become a sports lifestyle brand.
1998: Speedo Australia is named the official swimwear supplier for the Australian Olympic team for the 2000 Olympics.
2000: Fastskin swimsuits are unveiled and 83 percent of medal-winning swimmers at the Sydney Games wear Speedo.
2001: In Australia, manufacturing is stopped and other restructuring is announced. Warnaco files for bankruptcy and chairman and chief executive officer Linda Wachner leaves a few months later.
2003: Warnaco comes out of bankruptcy.