Fulfilling a condition that Beaver Theodosakis put on the table when Steelpoint Capital Partners and Prana management acquired the company from Liz Claiborne in February 2008, Theodosakis has relinquished the role of CEO and passed the executive leadership torch to Michael Crooke. To read the Feb. 1, 2008, SNEWS® story, “Prana back in the hands of private ownership after Claiborne sells,” click here.
“This was one of the conditions when we did the deal, and I made it clear that I did not see myself being CEO forever. In the next year, I told them I wanted to bring on a new CEO who had the skills I do not to be able to take us to the next level and help us tell our story to a bigger audience,” Theodosakis told SNEWS.
Though a number of titles were bandied about, Theodosakis told us that he settled on simply founder. “I am now going to focus more on the creative side — branding and future vision of Prana with regards to reaching new audiences and telling our story. In a sense, I will be the tribal storyteller. I will keep close connections with athletes and key dealers and the media. I also see it as my role to be able to bring in outside influence to nurture our team here,” said Theodosakis.
Pam Theodosakis will continue in her role as head of product design for Prana.
Before joining Prana, Crooke’s career has taken him from being a Navy Seal to managing director of Kelty Packs (remember the Pangea travel luggage and pack line?) to CEO of Pearl Izumi to CEO of Patagonia from 1999 to 2005. Following a rather abrupt resignation (click here to read our Oct. 3, 2005, story “Sheahan takes Patagonia helm following Crooke resignation,”), Crooke has wandered the periphery of the outdoor industry since, working most memorably for Steve Case, founder of AOL, as the CEO of Case’s Revolution Living.
“I thought that jetting around with Steve hiring CEOs and board of directors for a company that was about inspiring people to live more balanced and meaningful lives would be cool, but it was not,” Crooke told SNEWS.
“I feel like I am home again, like when I did when I worked for another wonderful pair of company founders Yvon and Melinda (Chouinard) at Patagonia,” said Crooke. “With Beaver and Pam, and for everyone working here, it is clear Prana is about a lifestyle and great values and not all about the dollars. This brand is so much more than just selling products — it is selling ideas.”
We asked Crooke how he envisioned being in the position of now having both Pam and Beaver have to answer to him, where they once answered to no one. “I would not be here if it were not for them. Both Pam and Beaver were instrumental in recruiting me to be here. Of course, I will respect the heritage and honor the values they both have instilled in the company,” said Crooke. “But the other side of the coin is they both happen to be brilliant people and real visionaries, and as a result, I’ll benefit from their experience and knowledge, and no matter what I do, it will always be levered if they concur and are part of it.”
SNEWS® View: Solid move by Prana. Dr. Michael Crooke (yes, he has a Ph.D. in management from Claremont Graduate University with a focus on sustainable business) is as good a leader as can be had and will mesh supremely well with the immense talent already in place at Prana. The fact that Beaver and Pam have a unique ability (at least as long as we have known them) to put their egos aside and listen to ideas from any source bodes well. The addition of Crooke supercharges an already humming engine and it would not surprise us one bit to see Prana fairly rapidly expanding its product mix where it makes sense (luggage and bags, for example) and pushing more into urban lifestyle apparel — all while pulling back the cover on the company further and further in an effort to become truly transparent and honestly sustainable. We would suspect that even if Crooke is driving the bus, Beaver and Pam will be tinkering with the engine all the while it is moving, which will only mean it’s an engine that will keep purring along. Prana is going to become a very good and influential force in the marketplace — rather like Patagonia is when it is firing on all cylinders. Freeing up Beaver to focus on higher-altitude thinking is also a strong move. With Beaver as the face of the company, he’ll be the litmus test that serves to ensure Prana maintains brand relevance in a changing environment. As he visits with stakeholders, talks with media and hangs out with key accounts, he will become the valuable eyes and ears of the company, and all that is good for Prana. And on a final note…what is it with Crooke and companies starting with P anyway: Pearl Izumi, Patagonia and now Prana? Just wondering.