In an unexpected move, the parent company of Gregory Mountain Products (a publicly traded company called Clarus Corporation – CLRS.PK) has purchased Black Diamond and will merge the two companies. The new company will bear the name Black Diamond Equipment.
Black Diamond, the Salt Lake City based climbing and backcountry skiing company, has for many of us here at Gear.com been an icon in the industry and local community of climbers and skiers. We’ve skied their skis through countless powder glades, placed their cams in splitter cracks, tied into their harnesses, climbed with their skins to lofty peaks and trusted our lives to their innovations like the Avalung and other avalanche gear. In short, BD has become intertwined with us in many ways, some well beyond the gear we love and use. So it’s a little shocking to me to hear the news of them being sold. I can’t say that I even remotely saw this coming…but now a couple of things are making sense.
Last month some of the Gregory pack designers and others were in town and I happened to hook up with them for a late season backcountry ski tour. At the time I thought it strange that the designers for Gregory would be in meetings with the guys from Black Diamond, but I wrote it off as industry comradeship. SNAP! I should have known something was up!
Peter Metcalf, the longtime President and CEO of Black Diamond made the announcement yesterday in an open letter to employees, friends and the community. You can read the entire letter on the Black Diamond website.
I’ve known Peter for a number of years and enjoyed his friendship and the good conversations we’ve had. I’ve long respected him as a businessman, leader, and a passionate climber/skier at the core. After reading his heart felt announcement I have even greater respect and admiration for Peter because I know that what he said is not Wall Street M&A verbage but a heartfelt thanks for the past that they’ve built and a declaration of the challenging and exciting route before them stated with pure gusto.
From the announcement:
Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot. For it to actually mean something, which it does at Black Diamond, we live and breathe the sports we represent and reflect that in our business practices. We approach business like we do climbing. As you can appreciate, there is precious little room for error in either. When we climb, we learn to make careful choices, act as a team, proceed purposefully, realistically assess risk, and ensure that we are protected against it. At the same time, we know how to maintain focus and, when necessary, to act decisively and aggressively to make progress. We constantly adapt to the route in front of us. That we approach our business the same way is no accident.
Today, we have a new route and new summit to tackle.
Gregory Mountain Products
Not to be forgotten in this is Gregory, one of the best pack making companies around. I’ve been using the Gregory Targhee the past two seasons and have fallen in love the the clean design. I’ve also used the Gregory Whitney as my backpacking pack for years. This too is a great brand with quality products and a legacy of excellence.
Where will they call Home?
Given that Gregory is based in Sacramento, California and Black Diamond here in Salt Lake City, Utah, it remains to be seen whether or not BD will stay rooted in Salt Lake or if they’ll move to the foothills of the Sierras, a move that could bring the company near to its roots of Yosemite when Ivan Chouinard formed Chouinard Equipment out of passion and the need for quality climbing gear which became the predecessor to Black Diamond’s formation in 1989. It was that bold move in 1989 when Peter Metcalf and others faced the climbing community with a similar challenge that lay before them and declared they would forge ahead on a new route towards the summit which they now find themselves glancing back at as they embark once again.
What is not changing? Our commitment to our mission vision and values, and our efforts to help write the stories of the sports and the communities which inspire us. This shared passion is the universal Esperanto that connects us with fellow climbers & skiers no matter where we are. We view this new route in front of us as not only a method to growth, but as a collaborative effort through which we will strengthen and expand the way we do business and our community of fellow users
On the financial and investment side of things, since Clarus is a publicly traded company Black Diamond Equipment will be entering a new and challenging phase as a public company, formerly operating as an employee owned company. I can only assume that this will remain true to some degree as employees may have been given shares or options of Clarus. (ticker – CLRS.PK) For those that follow stocks, shares jumped from $5 to $6 in a flurry of trading yesterday.