We had a factory in Orange and when we were public, we started getting some new management in. They went and built another factory in San Diego, all Hi-tech and stuff my dad knew for fifty years wasn’t good enough. My dad was gone, they thought they knew more, Harvard graduates, and they went and spent a ton of money on a factory that never, ever, made the volumes or efficiency that the old factory did. They kind of screwed it up. That was the point where they shut down all manufacturing and moved everything offshore. There was also demand for new types of shoes, cold cure and you couldn’t do them in California for environmental reasons. So we couldn’t do the shoes that our competitors were doing. So we changed the philosophy of the company from manufacturing to being a marketing company.
The nineties arrives and Vans were getting involved with the Warped tour and skate events, what was driving that?
A guy named Kevin Lyman came to us and said I’ve got this tour idea. I said I wanted to do a skateboard contest nation wide and Kevin said his music tour was going nationwide. So we came up with the Vans Warp tour. Well it was the ‘Warped’ tour year one and then it was the ‘Van’s Warp tour’ in year 2.
Kevin was a hard working guy but never had the money so we bought 15%. We just had our 10th anniversary last year, 650,000 kids paid to see the tour in the US. We’ve been to Australia 3 times and Europe twice and it’s been very successful. During the dot.com era a company bought the tour, but a year later they went out of business. We got it back for a dollar, now we’re the majority owner of it and it continues to go strong.
I think it’s one the best things we have ever done. Basically Vans is a company that sells to teenagers, 65% male and 35% female. What did a teenager do before he was 16 and could drive? He skateboards, he surfs, he rides bikes. Then he finds the sheila’s and needs a car to go do stuff. But both boys and girls like music, so we tied ourselves into a punk rock scene cause a lot of the guys that were in bands would wear Vans.
Next we decided to do skate events. At first I tied in with the Hard Rock Café and Transworld and did the Triple Crown, which came from my Dad because they had the triple crown of horse racing. We made a deal with NBC, we won’t do horse racing, but we’d like to do a triple crown of skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, BMX, freestyle motor cross, super cross. So for the last eight years we have done 20 events. We have three different events in three different locations across the United States in each sport.
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