Following the completion of Pentland Group’s acquisition of Speedo North America from PVH Corp., Jim Gerson will return as president, effective June 1.
Gerson had been president of Speedo North America from 2010 to 2016 and prior to that was president of the surf brand Reef and held senior vice president roles for The North Face and Jantzen swimwear brands.
In his new role, he will be based at Speedo North America headquarters in Cypress, Calif.
In April, Pentland Group, parent company of the Speedo brand, acquired the Speedo North American business from PVH for $170 million in cash, subject to a working capital adjustment.
In an interview Thursday, Gerson said he took a “quick retirement” the last four years and spent time with his family, before making the decision to return to Speedo. “I have great respect for the Rubin family and the Pentland Group, and I built a nice relationship with them from 2010 to 2016. They asked if I’d be interested in coming back and I thought it would be an interesting and fruitful adventure,” said Gerson of the family that founded and runs Pentland.
Gerson will be tasked with leading the Speedo North America team as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2021 and growing the brand across the region, within the swim category.
As the pandemic sweeps the globe, getting people to return to the beaches and swimming this summer is a more immediate challenge.
“It’s an interesting time,” said Gerson. “We’re all kind of cooped up and a lot of cabin fever. I do think it will be different this summer.”
He said he just read an article in USA Swimming which said they have a plan to have people back in the water by the end of the summer. “Even though swimming is an individual sport, there are still teams and people that want to be next to each other and around each other, and that’s the biggest challenge for everyone. It’s a great sport and life skill, and I’m hopeful everyone will be back in the water soon,” he said.
Among his top priorities at Speedo will be understanding the consumer mind-set. “I think a lot of it is looking at the environment and seeing how the consumer is shopping and making sure we’re resonating with them,” he said. Another priority is to try and get people back into the water. “We all have a choice of exercise, whether you’re doing yoga or Pilates, or you’re at a gym, or in the water. The beautiful thing about swimming is it’s a great high-aerobic, low-impact sport, and you can get a great workout without really taxing your joints,” said Gerson.
He believes Speedo has a great opportunity to become a lifestyle brand. “I really believe people take their sport or their passion and take it into their lifestyle,” he said.
Another top priority will be getting the company ready for the 2021 Olympics, which he believes will happen. “Hopefully we’ll have a vaccine by then and will have people back in the water….I do think it will be a little more normal than it is today,” he said.
Andy Long, chief executive officer of Pentland Group’s Pentland Brands division, expressed how pleased he was that Gerson has agreed to return to lead the Speedo North America team. “The completion of the Speedo North America acquisition and the appointment of Jim, during these uncertain times, demonstrates our long-term commitment to the business and our passion for building a truly global brand,” said Long.
Gerson, who reports to Long, added, “Pentland has an outstanding track record in brand building and growing global sports brands, and that will be instrumental in helping us to grow the Speedo business in North America. Speedy is a truly authentic, category leading brand with an incredible history, and I can’t wait to start working with the fantastic Speedo team in shaping the future.”
Pentland acquired the Speedo brand in 1991 when it bought the Speedo International business, which then licensed the Speedo trademark to PVH’s predecessor Warnaco Group for use in North America and the Caribbean. It has since developed it into the world’s leading performance swimwear brand and now operates the Speedo businesses worldwide.
Speedo was started in Sydney, Australia, in 1914. Since developing the first racer-back in the Twenties, Speedo has been behind many of the major innovations in swimwear, and more Olympic gold medals have been won in Speedo than any other brand.
FOR MORE STORIES: