Woolrich Family Takes Larger Role

Company has tapped two descendants of its founding family to help steer the heritage brand forward.

Nick Brayton, John Ranelli and Josh Rich

Woolrich has tapped two descendants of its founding family to help steer the company forward.

This story first appeared in the March 14, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On Tuesday, the Woolrich, Pa.-based company named Nicholas Brayton, a seventh-generation descendant, president, and Joshua W. Rich as vice president of international. Rich is the eighth generation of the business, which was founded by John Rich in 1830. Brayton and Joshua Rich are cousins and members of the controlling families that own the privately held company.

At the same time, John Ranelli, who joined the company’s board of directors last year and serves as chairman, has been elevated to chief executive officer. Ranelli’s background includes president and ceo of Mikasa Inc. and chairman, ceo and president of FGX International, and he has also worked at Decker’s Outdoor Corp. and the Timberland Co.

“At Woolrich, everything we do and everything we make reflects a deep commitment to core family values of tradition, integrity and quality. It’s in every stitch, every seam and every wool thread,” said Ranelli. “With that spirit in mind, it’s clear that an opportunity to restore family leadership is both great for the business and great for the brand.”

Brayton is the first family member to lead the company since his father, Roswell Brayton Jr., died in March 2007. Nicholas Brayton had formerly served as director for the domestic licensing business and will oversee the day-to-day operations of the business with Ranelli. Rich was formerly business development analyst for the company. He will be the chief liaison with W.P. Lavori, the company’s European partner that produces the Woolrich John Rich and Bros. and Woolrich Woolen Mills fashion-forward apparel collections. He will move to Italy next month to “look for opportunities to grow the business in Europe and Asia,” he told WWD. “Our ultimate goal is to have a viable global brand.”

Brayton said he sees growth possibilities for all three of the company’s brands, which also include Woolrich Outdoor sportswear and outerwear. “Globally, the Woolrich brand is thriving. People are seeking out American heritage, quality and integrity — attributes that have historically been at the very core of Woolrich, as well as other successful family-owned businesses,” he said. “In the U.S., we see growth of the Outdoor collection because Woolrich has always been synonymous with outdoors. We believe we have a ton of opportunity still.” The company also operates the longest continually operating woolen mill in the U.S.

The post of president was held previously by Jim Griggs, who resigned from the position last April but agreed to remain until the position was filled. Griggs will continue to direct the company’s government-contracting business.