They sound like tough times, what got you through?
It was back to classics. We didn’t advertise one penny from 84 to 87 and that’s when companies like Vision Streetwear came through. They started to advertise heavily and we couldn’t do anything except just let them go. We couldn’t pay skaters or anybody else to wear our shoes, all we could do was give some shoes away. Basically we just put blinkers on and just tried to get the money paid back, then in 1987 we came out of Chapter 11.
You had an ownership change at the end of the 80s and sold some shares at the start of the 90s. Was it the corporate changes that forced the end of manufacturing shoes in the US?
In 1988 these men offered my Dad $75 million for the company. He didn’t owe a penny at the time. With my Uncle not being involved anymore, there were politics and we’d never had that in the company before. My dad didn’t want to see that happening in the future and he called me up to play tennis. My dad didn’t play tennis and he said ‘what would you say if I told you some one offered 75 million for the company?’ I said ‘sell, you’re ready to retire, enjoy life. Whatever happens to me I’ll be fine.’
What happened was Black Monday. One of the last deals Michael Wilkin, a famous investor who went to jail, did was Vans. It was 1987 and the market fell and that messed up the deal. It was meant to happen again in December of 87 but the market fell again. The deal actually happened in 1988 for 60 million dollars. The promise was when they went public they would pay my dad the rest of the 15 million.
So in 1988 the deal went through, a company called McConval-Deluit bought the company, the two men behind it acquire companies, grow them and take them public. They owned the company for about the next ten years. They took Vans public in 91 and we were a public company until 2004. From 88-93 everything was going fine. Then things started slowing down a bit. We started buying snowboard boots from overseas and by 94-95 we were sourcing everything overseas and really people forgot about our classics from about 95 until 2002. Trends happen but you know we just went away from it for too long a time.
Check out our next feature: DEATH OF THE INDEPENDENT SNEAKER STORE