Kathmandu, the New Zealand-based outdoor equipment manufacturer and retailer, has purchased Montana’s Oboz Footwear for about $75 million. While the news is surprising, the companies had done a robust business together for years—Kathmandu’s 164 stores in New Zealand and Australia have long been the only places to find Oboz for sale in Australasia, and they were the second company to ever sell Oboz shoes and sandals after the brand launched in 2007.
John Connelly, Oboz’s CEO and president will stay on board with the beloved Bozeman company, and the deal is not expected to have any negative impact on the company’s 22 employees, or their headquarters and home office. Connelly will, however, report to Kathmandu’s head, Xavier Simonet.
“[Oboz] for the last 10 years has been very tied to Bozeman, to Montana and to the greater Yellowstone area,” Connelly told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “That ended up being part of our success. Had we not been in Bozeman, all of this would not have been possible.”
Bozeman is so ingrained in the company, the name Oboz itself is a mashup of “Outside” and “Bozeman.” Many shoes feature topo maps of Montana regions built into the outsoles. Could probably read them like a map if worse came to worse in the Sawtooths.
The deal likely opens a whole lot of retail doors for Oboz, including in Asian and European markets, in addition to bolstering their presence in Australia and New Zealand.
For Kathmandu, a much larger company than Oboz, publicly-traded with some 2,000 employees, they can now look to take aim directly at the massive U.S. outdoor gear space after recently making an unsuccessful run at establishing a brick-and-mortar presence in Europe. It also allows Kathmandu to expand their offerings into the footwear world—Kathmandu is today known primarily for technical hiking and backpacking apparel.
The deal will allow both brands to be sold through each other’s retail channels. Basically, anywhere you’ve seen products from one company for sale, you can soon expect to see the other. Connelly has also hinted that the Oboz brand may even expand beyond shoes into other gear categories.
“It was about finding the right partner and somebody I’m comfortable leaving my baby with,” Connelly said. “We share many of the same values, so it’s a little bittersweet, but it’s really positive.”