Head Tyrolia Mares (HTM) AG, manufacturer of Head skis, tennis rackets, Tyrolia ski bindings, and other products, announced October 1 that it had made a cash purchase of the entire snowboard division of USP International AG, which includes the Blax and Generics brand names.

The deal includes the brand names, tools, patents, and holdings as well as the assumption of accounts receivable assets and preexisting liabilities. No other details about the transaction were released.

The deal had been under negotiation for the last six months, says USP Snowboard Division General Manager Klaus Thurner. “This will allow us to aggressively pursue growth,” he says. “It brings together a specialty snowboard company with one of the last leaders of the wintersports market without a snowboard program.”

Thurner says Blax/Generics could have maintained its current size and remained profitable, adding, “However, looking ten years into the future, it seems snowboard brands either have to partner with these larger companies or remain specialized and that will make success increasingly difficult.”

In addition, Thurner says the move will allow Blax/Generics to fully exploit the innovative product designs already in development: “The company wanted to find a partner with synergies in distribution, development, and production. We have a lot of ideas and product concepts in the pipeline, but we can definitely use a distribution network like HTM has to put these product advancements efficiently into the marketplace.”

According to Thurner, “It was clear we had good distribution in Middle Europe and Japan, but we had other markets we weren't well established in. If you can't reach critical mass, it's hard to be competitive.”

This may open the door for the eventual return of the Blax/Generics brand to the United States. “We're definitely aware of the specific needs and difficulties the American market presents to a brand such as ours,” Thurner says. “There is overwhelming national competition from Burton, K2, and Sims–plus from the ski brands such as Salomon and Rossignol. We know returning to America demands the right approach in terms of product, marketing, and distribution. That's some homework we're just getting into with the help of the HTM American people. We'll work hard to find the right approach, but we aren't under any pressure. There are no unrealistic business plans. We'll do it right, when and if we do it.”

The current USP team will stay the same–including cofounder and designer Charlie Messmer. Tentatively plans call for the brand moving to the HTM offices next year, which are close to the current Blax/Generics office in Munich. Thurner says the brand will have its own floor for R&D as well as control over distribution policies and strategies.

“We have a slow pace in regards to integrating on a sourcing level with HTM,” says Thurner. “Of course, we are investigating opportunities, but we don't feel any pressure to make a change.”

Marketing Director Florian Weingärtner says that although his marketing budget will increase, “We are still regarded as a profit center, so it's not like HTM will be dumping a ton on money on us. We are looking forward to synergies in distribution and organizational marketing support. I think the biggest opportunity will be the product as the main focus, boosted by some new and exciting construction techniques through HTM”.

Weingärtner says he's also on the lookout for one or two hot European riders to add to the team.

After meeting with the HTM board of directors, Thurner says he's pleased HTM has shown a respect for snowboarding and its unique lifestyle. “We'll drive the snowboard business as an independent segment of the wintersports market, and we loook forward to contributing to the overall success of the HTM business.”–Aaron Checkwood and Sean O'Brien