Becker Surf acquired by Billabong
Becker Surf, the Hermosa Beach surf retailer founded by shaper Phil Becker, glasser Steve Mangiagli and pinstriper Dave Hollander in 1980, was acquired last week by surf industry giant Billabong.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed. But Hollander and Mangiagli said the sale did not include their surfboard manufacturing facility in Hermosa Beach, which has been separately owned by Mangiagli. The two said they will retain the right to manufacturer and sell boards under the Becker name.
Negotiations between the companies began informally about five years ago, Hollander said, when he proposed licensing the Becker name to Billabong USA president Paul Naude.
“Paul said he wasn’t interested in a licensing agreement, but said that he might be interested in acquiring our stores. At the time we weren’t interested in selling. But the idea stuck in my resin-clogged brain,” Hollander said.
Billabong USA subsequently went on a buying spree, acquiring over two dozen surf companies, including Sector 9 skateboards, Nixon watches, Xcel wetsuits, Von Zipper sunglasses, Quiet Flight surf shops in Florida and Honolua Surf shops in Hawaii.
“Their strategy is to acquire the best company in each surf category,” Hollander said.
Naude praised Becker Surf as “an iconic California surfboard manufacturer and retailer that has helped shape the Southern California Surf culture.”
He said there is no master plan to changer Becker Surf and that the Hermosa store will remain in its present location. He said Billabong’s contribution to Becker Surf will be primarily financial and operational.
“We’re interested in preserving and growing the brand. We’re not interested in having a homogenous feel to our companies. The consumer responds to variety and independent branding,” Naude said.
He said Billabong’s ownership of Becker will not impact Billabong’s wholesale sales to competing surf shops.
“We’re interested in preserving specialty retail stores. It doesn’t matter who owns it. Other surf shops have been there a long time and I like to think we will continue to co-exist.
Hollander said he was encouraged to sell to Billabong by the fact that owners of companies who had sold to Billabong were pleased with Billabong’s management.
Mangiagli added that the two liked the fact that Billabong allowed its acquisitions to retain their identity and employees.
Negotiations for Billabong to buy Becker began two years ago, but were suspended when the worldwide recession prompted Billabong’s Australian parent company to rein in its USA division.
Negotiations resumed about six months ago, Hollander said. He credited attorney Kent Burton, whose office is a few doors up Pier Avenue from Becker’s Hermosa Beach store, for the success of the complicated negotiations.
In addition to Hermosa Beach, Becker Surf has stores in Malibu, Encinitas, and Mission Viejo. This year it opened a second Mission Viejo store to sell stand up paddleboards. It also has a successful e-commerce web site.
Four years ago, Hollander and Mangiagli bought out Phil Becker, who retired to Hawaii.
Hollander said a condition of the Billabong sale was that he remain with the company as manager of Becker Surf.
Mangiagli said he will continue his routine of unlocking the Cypress Avenue factory every morning at 5:30 a.m., and spending Tuesdays and Thursdays personally glassing surfboards.
He noted that Becker is the last of Hermosa’s long tradition of surfboard manufacturers, to still shape and glass its surfboards in town.
Hollander said he has always loved managing the businesses and anticipates it being even more enjoyable without daily, do or die financial pressure.
In December, Hollander received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Bank of Manhattan’s Entrepreneur of the Year Dinner. Upon receiving the honor he said, “I went to work for Bing Surfboards when I was 15. I walked in and said to myself, ‘Someday, this is going to be mine. Twelve years later I called my mom and asked her if she remembered where she dropped me off for my first day of work. Then I told her, ‘Well, I just leased that building.’”
Mangiagli said his decision to go into the surfboard business was met with similar skepticism from his father.
“When I told him I was going to quit my delivery job with SC Coleman Furniture, to work at Rick Surfboards, he was furious. He said “Where the hell do you think surfboards will get you.’ It was a sore point with him for many years.”
Becker Surf’s sale comes at a time when the surf industry, world wide, like other industries, is mired in the recession. National surf industry sales are reportedly down 30 percent from prerecession numbers.
Even prior to Becker Surf’s sale, the local surf industry had begun to undertake major changes in response to the recession. Huntington Beach-based Jack’s Surfboards is opening its eighth store in Hermosa Beach next month on Pacific Coast Highway, coincidentally in the former SC Coleman Furniture building. ET Surf on Aviation Boulevard is expanding into an adjacent building and Spyder Surf on Pacific Coast Highway has undertaken a major remodel.
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