Icebreaker comfortable fit for Fyfe

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2014

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Former high-flying Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe says a new chief executive role with clothing company Icebreaker will see him wearing more casual gear than he did at the airline.

Fyfe, known for stylish dressing, has already served as executive chairman of the New Zealand-based retailer for nine months and has been on the board since July 2012, so he has already got used to the comfortable clothing he says fits in with long flights.

He has taken over the chief executive role from Icebreaker founder Jeremy Moon in a direct swap of roles.

"I'm used to running a larger organisation and understanding how to do that. Jeremy by nature is very entrepreneurial and very creative," Fyfe said yesterday.

He would be flying just as much with Icebreaker as he did as boss of Air New Zealand, having resigned from the national airline at the end of 2012.

Now he would likely spend six weeks in July and August each year based in Starnberg near Munich, Germany, to be in touch with Icebreaker's European team, part of a 435-strong workforce.

"I think it's really important that the team up there can have direct access to me . . . in terms of sales Germany is our biggest market in the world."

"The German market is quite technical, and it's also a very high-value market, so people will pay a premium for superior technologies, superior fibres."

Icebreaker's sales have tripled in the last six years, and are forecast to exceed $200 million in 2014, with more than 80 per cent of these sales in Europe and North America.

Fyfe said a lot of the company's growth had been funded out of cashflows with help from bank debt. Icebreaker has 19 retail stores spread across New Zealand, Australia and the United States, plus a product design team in Portland, Oregon.

Asked if there was a possibility that Icebreaker would undertake an initial public offering and list shares in the next three to six months, Fyfe said "no". He did not rule out the need for an offering or capital raising in the longer term.

"Up until now the company has been able to grow without having to source any external capital . . . If we determined at a future point that we wanted to accelerate the growth and we couldn't fund that out of existing profits and support from the bank, then we'd look at other options at that point in time but we're not there yet," Fyfe said.

He already held some shares in Icebreaker, and "I'm actually just about to increase my stake in the company as well by investing further funds in the business."

His would be a relatively small holding, in the single digits.

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Icebreaker plans to close its Wellington office and by the end of the year it expects the Auckland team to grow to 80.

Moon said it was a big decision for him to hand over the CEO role.

- Stuff

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