MARGOLIS JOINS REEBOK AS GROUP PRESIDENT
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Reebok International confirmed reports Wednesday that Jay Margolis has joined the company as president of the specialty business group, overseeing its Rockport, Ralph Lauren footwear and Greg Norman collections.
Margolis, 51, is based at the company’s corporate headquarters in Canton, Mass., and reports to Paul Fireman, chairman and chief executive officer.
He succeeds Paul Duncan, who retired from the $2.9 billion company last month as president of the specialty business group but remains a member of its board of directors.
In his new post, Margolis has three of Reebok’s four division presidents reporting to him — Terry Pillow of Rockport, Leslie Smith of Ralph Lauren footwear and John Wagstaff of Greg Norman. Dave Perdue, who was promoted to president of Reebok’s branded division last month, manages the fourth division.
In a statement, Fireman said, “Jay’s wealth of management experience from some of the world’s leading sportswear and apparel brands along with the respect he has earned from industry retailers are tremendous assets for Reebok as we continue to grow and develop our multibrand portfolio.”
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Margolis said he has long viewed Reebok and its divisions as “enormous opportunities” that he would like to contribute to, but making that happen took four years.
Margolis and Fireman have kept in touch since 1996, when Margolis was chairman and ceo of Esprit de Corp.
“Other things happened and we moved in different ways. But I always believed in Reebok as a brand, as well as Rockport, Ralph Lauren and Greg Norman,” Margolis said.
While vacationing in New Zealand last winter after exiting Esprit, Margolis said he called Fireman from a veranda overlooking a sheep station to say he was interested in getting involved with the company.
“I’m very excited. It’s been a long process,” he said. “But I believe in Reebok.”
He pointed to Reebok’s reported $40 million 5-year endorsement deal with Venus Williams — the largest contract ever awarded to a female athlete — and its new 10-year joint venture with the National Football League as examples of how the brand is updating its image.
“They’ve hung in there. They’ve had some tough times but I think they’re on the verge of some great times,” Margolis said.
He has also faced a spell of adversity.
Prior to joining Reebok last month, Margolis served as chairman and ceo of E7th.com, which folded last month after investors backed out.
“I hated the dot-com world. It was not real. You couldn’t touch and feel it,” he said. “I can’t wait to do business with department stores and everyone I’ve known all through my career.”
During his four years at Esprit, he helped revive the brand by relaunching its catalog, setting up an online store and inking licensing deals for swimwear and DKNY Kids. Despite being a newcomer to the athletic industry, Margolis said he understands the footwear business due to has experience at Esprit and Liz Claiborne. “An avid hiker, kayaker, climber and golfer” Margolis said he has been a jock all his life.
Prior to working at Tommy Hilfiger from 1992 to 1995, he logged nine years at Liz Claiborne where he held several executive posts including vice chairman of the board, president of Liz Claiborne sportswear and president of Liz Claiborne men’s wear.
Rockport apparel — something the company has offered in recent seasons — has a lot of growth potential, but building footwear sales is the priority, Margolis said. Well aware of the need for speed in terms of capitalizing on apparel trends, Margolis said his understanding of the apparel business can only be helpful to Reebok. He said he might consult with Reebok brand executives about its apparel business in the future.
“I’ve been involved with brands all my life. To me, it’s just fun to get your hands around a brand, to get the product out there, to maximize sales and get them through the right distribution channels,” he said. “Hopefully, I can help do that.”
Undaunted that several senior executives have had stints at Reebok, Margolis said, “I think they would say they were frustrated that some people didn’t work out. Mistakes were probably made on both parts…I feel very comfortable here. With all you do in life, you want to find where you fit in. I want to do business, make people money and have a good time doing it.”