Kevin Cody

Redondo Beach’s Body Glove partners with New York’s Marquee Brands

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Cousins Billy and Robbie Meistrell place leis on their fathers Bill and Bob during the 2014 unveiling of the statues in King Harbor. Photo by Kevin Cody

Cousins Billy and Robbie Meistrell place leis on their fathers Bill and Bob during the 2014 unveiling of the statues in King Harbor. Photo by Kevin Cody

Fabled, family-owned Body Glove, the South Bay’s largest surf industry company and one of the most recognized names in worldwide retail, has sold a majority interest to New York-based Marquee Brands.

Body Glove CEO Robbie Meistrell reported that the sale closed on Monday. He said the Meistrell family retained 25 percent of the company and will continue to be involved in Body Glove. He declined to disclose the sale price.

Bob Miestrell aboard Disappearance. Easy Reader file photo

Bob Meistrell aboard Disappearance. Easy Reader file photo

The transaction did not include Dive N’ Surf, the Redondo Beach dive shop owned by the Meistrell family since 1953. Nor does the sale include the 62-foot Disappearance, based in King Harbor, though the name Body Glove will remain painted in tall black letters on either side of the boat’s hull.

The two-year-old Marquee Brands is a $400 million licensing and development fund. Body Glove is its third acquisition. It previously acquired the luxury Italian footwear brand Bruno Magli and British shirtmaker Ben Sherman.

“Marquee is giving us the firepower to take Body Glove to the next level,” said Meistrell.

The Meistrell family celebrated Bob Meistrell's 82nd birthday with a 100 dive on the sunken Liberty ship Palawon. Photo by Mike Balzer

Three generations of the Meistrell family celebrated Body Glove co-founder Bob Meistrell’s 82nd birthday in 2010 with a 100 dive on the sunken Liberty ship Palawan. Photo by Mike Balzer

He said he and his brothers Ronnie and Randy and cousin Billy will remain involved in the company, founded by their dads, twins Bob and Bill Meistrell. Third generation Meistrells will also continue working at Body Glove, he said.

Meistrell said the transaction will enable him to devote more attention to Dive N’ Surf and to his King Harbor business interests, which includes a charter dive service. Meistrell is also a partner in American Wave Machines and hopes one day to install a wave machine in Redondo Beach.

In 2014, the Catalina Avenue building where Dive N’ Surf has been located since 1958 and where over 60,000 divers have been SCUBA certified, was remodeled to include a second story for Body Glove’s headquarters. Meistrell said Body Glove’s headquarters will remain at its present location.

Russ Lesser and Robbie and Billie Meistrell. Photo by Mike Balzer

Russ Lesser and Robbie and Billie Meistrell. Photo by Mike Balzer

Body Glove president Russ Lesser described the transaction as a win-win deal for both the Meistrell family and Marquee Brands. The CPA has been with Body Glove since 1990 and has an equity position in the company.

“It’s a good deal financially for the Meistrell family. And by keeping the family involved, Marquee is still able to say the company is family owned. Whenever we go to trade shows people always say they like working with family owned businesses,” Lesser said.

Body Glove was formed in 1966 as a subsidiary of Dive N’ Surf, to manufacture wetsuits. Bob and Bill Meistrell are credited with popularizing the first neoprene surf wetsuits in the early 1950s.

They initially manufactured the suits in the back of their Redondo Beach dive shop. Manufacturing was later moved to a warehouse at Sixth and Cypress streets in Hermosa Beach.

In 1997, under competitive cost pressures, they licensed the Body Glove name to a Thailand wetsuit manufacturer.

Subsequently, the company grew to become an international brand by licensing its name and familiar black and yellow hand logo for other aquatic apparel and products, which now include board shorts, bikinis, dive gear, surfboards, wakeboards, stand-up boards and PFDs (personal flotation devices).

Throughout its six decade history Body Glove and Dive N’ Surf have been among the South Bay’s most influential and supportive companies.

Body Glove has sponsored professional surfers, surf camps and surf contests, including the popular South Bay Boardriders Club contest series.

Body Glove has also been a major contributor to local charities and education foundations. Cruises aboard Disappearance are a staple of local charity auctions and have raised millions of dollars.

Lesser said he expects Body Glove’s community involvement to continue.

Bill and Bob Meistrell with a rare Bob Simmons Balsa board. Photo by Mike Balzer

Bill and Bob Meistrell with a rare Bob Simmons Balsa board. Photo by Mike Balzer

Spyder Surf founder Dennis Jarvis, whose two Hermosa Beach surf shops sponsor the South Bay Scholastic Surfing Association, praised Body Glove for its many contributions to the surf community.

“They sponsored me as a pro surfer for three years and helped launch my career, as well as many others. I love the Meistrells and hope they do something special with the money,” Jarvis said.

“Retail is hard. Body Glove is vertically integrated. Taking in an investor is going to help,” he said.

ET Surf owner Eddie Talbot, who has sold Body Glove wetsuits since he opened his Hermosa Beach shop in 1973, echoed Jarvis’ sentiments.

“I have a lot of respect for them. The Meistrell family and Body Glove are a part of our culture and always will be.” ER

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