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Old     (VinnyA)      Join Date: Aug 2011       03-11-2015, 5:38 PM Reply   
Hello Fellow WW users,

I was doing some research on Kent.
Everyone's favorite parent compay when I came across this forum thread:

I'm interested in this post by "Bill_AirJunky"
"Just some more details as I remember them:

First of all the waterski industry is VERY cut throat. Those guys are not loaded. They have money, yes. But they have issues almost every year financing the next years production run. I've heard they are always getting second mortgages & whatever other "creative financing" they can just so they can build skis & boards for the next year.

Lets go back a bit further. Herb, Denny & Greg are known for one thing in particular..... developing the compression molded fiberglass technology used in making water skis. Now it's also used in making airplane parts, tractor trailer bodies & tons of other things. But their early waterskiing days were done on wood skis made by Paul Wileys company, Wileys Skis. All four of them learned how to make wood snow & water skis from their high school shop teacher, an old timer named Wally Burr.

So Herb started O'Brien Skis in the 1970s & was initially making painted wood skis. I believe Denny & Greg were also involved early on. There was also another small company called EP Waterskis making skis out of fiberglass.... I'm not sure how Herb was involved with them but at some point O'Brien's high end slalom skis were made of fiberglass. They perfected the compression molded process & developed relationships overseas. The smuggling deal was them building hollow skis overseas & bringing them into the US full of coke. He ended going to prison for a couple years & had to sell out of many of his business ventures. He lost the O'Brien Skis company to his wife who promptly divorced him. He also had to sell his private ski lake located in Snohomish county...... to the guy who owned Radar Electric who named it Radar Lake.

Word is that Herd never told who his partners were in this & so after he did the time, those same guys helped him get back on his feet & he started HO Sports. And I also heard that Herb kept in touch with Mr Radar (or whatever his name was), and had lunch with him occasionally. A few yrs ago Mr Radar became terminally ill & over one of their lunches he told Herb he was ready to sell Radar Lake back to him..... for $1.
Pretty interesting story, not sure if I believe the last part or not. But it sounds good.

HO Sports was the company that Herb created after prison. That company had several product lines, HO Skis, Hyperlite Wakeboards, Accurate Lines, and probably some more I don't recall. They also contracted to numerous other companies to build their products, including the boards for SkySki & AirChair, cabs for Peterbilt & Kenworth trucks, and who knows what else. At some point they diversified & became several companies. As they financed their production runs year after year, one of the guys who was involved was Bob Archer of the Kent Sporting Goods Co. After several years of doing this, Bob owned a majority of the company & came in to the office with the King County Sheriff & told Herb he was taking over. Herb was escorted off the property.

Since then I've moved away from the area (I lived in the condos that Herb lived in when he was busted). Last I heard Herb owned several more companies including Ronix & Playmaker (who makes skis/boards overseas).

Remember HO's old 3060 wakeboard bindings? The name came from the house that Shapiro, Murray, Perez & the other pro riders lived in, developing new boards & bindings for us all to ride...... at 3060 W Lake Sammamish Pkwy. Right up the street from my place. The summer they lived there was a good time with lots of wakeboard & hydrofoil talent on the water. There was a Waterski Magazine article about the scene, titled "The Lake that never sleeps". My brother even got a cover shot.

Also, Greg Connelly owns another cool ski lake surrounded by a 6 hole golf course in Orting, WA called Ski Lake Park. Occasionally I see videos & events done at either Radar or SLP. I wakeboarded on Radar years ago. It's a sweet place."

Can anyone in the know confirm or deny aspects of the story?
Or elaborate on details you feel compelled to share?
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Old     (cheesydog)      Join Date: Mar 2009       03-11-2015, 9:09 PM Reply   
Ive heard bits and pieces of that story before, it sure as hell makes for an entertaining read! The bit about smuggling coke in the ski's is crazy, must have been crazy times.
Old     (Redheadd)      Join Date: Apr 2014       03-12-2015, 9:20 AM Reply   
Old     (timmyb)      Join Date: Apr 2007       03-12-2015, 10:15 AM Reply   
That's crazy! I also didn't know that the same company owned almost all of the wakeboard mfr's.
Old     (john211)      Join Date: Aug 2008       03-12-2015, 2:11 PM Reply   
I don't know anything personally about the early history of all this, although I've seen about the same re-telling of the above other times here on WW.

What I do personally recall is this. The year before RONIX was launched, the wakeboard brands were essentially going to be 100% Kent brands.

JOBE was as good as lost for good, GATOR's hold was precarious. There is an archive here of all the other former historical brands. All lapsed in face of the competition with the Kent brands. Then RONIX was launched. It succeeded with good designs, and signed up popular talent. There still these days nothing like healthy competition, but there is some competition nonetheless.
Old     (phathom)      Join Date: Jun 2013       03-12-2015, 3:53 PM Reply   
I had no idea about a lot of it. I mean I know it started with O'Brien and then went to HO and that he launched Hyperlite and the sort, but I had no idea about the drug smuggling or any of that. Crazy.

I'm rocking a life vest made with drug money
Old     (VinnyA)      Join Date: Aug 2011       03-12-2015, 7:17 PM Reply   
As far as the life vest being made with drug money, I wouldn't worry about it. hahaha

Can anyone elaborate on the structure of Kent? People always seem to throw hissyfits when it gets brought up but I'd love to know.
This thread post by Brian K Smith says Bob Archer just owns each company but they're all individually managed?

If the structure of the company allows for Kent management to make final decisions for its subsidiaries (Hyperlite,LF, CWB etc)= innovation really could be stifled.
If the structure of the company doesn't allow Kent management to make decisions for those companies, then we can't make this stifled competition argument.
However even in this second option we would still be able to witness the effect of economies of scale lol Barriers to entry and such and they sue competition out of existence. RIP Company

However, if Bob Archer has a ton of cash and is the only one who was willing to make the long term investment in watersports and wakeboarding and financially propped up so many flourishing companies, we may in fact owe him a thank you.

Who is John Archer then? lol
Also worthy of note....Pres of Kent is Board Member of WSIA hahaha
Old     (dyost)      Join Date: Jan 2007       03-12-2015, 10:20 PM Reply   
You could definitely argue the Kent companies lack of innovation. The economies of scale point is a good one too and you would think they could produce product for significantly lower cost, but are priced at the same point if not higher than other mfgs (ronix, slingshot, CTRL). Would be interesting to see what their margins are compared to the others. If they are significantly more profitable they don't seem to be investing much in product development. LF is basically the same stuff from 2006. They did significantly change the boot world in 06, better materials, went away from rubber overlays, closed toe Shane's, etc... But the boards are still largely the same thing with the same break every 3 months core. You can maybe make the innovation case for Hyp on the systems (but what percentage of riders really think that's a good idea? I am terrified of them) and Byerly on their glass construction but these are nothing compared to what SS and Ronix have done in the way of product development and improving our gear.

I say buy from the independents, not because I don't like the idea of a big corp or anything like that but I truly believe SS and Ronix are way better products and have to think the org structure at Kent has something to do with that.
Old     (buffalow)      Join Date: Apr 2002       03-13-2015, 7:26 AM Reply   
This is why we created The Wakeboarding Hall of Fame. So we can properly honor and preserve the TRUE history of the sport. We have slowly and carefully doing interviews, digitizing archives, and talking to all of the originators. It will be a long road to document everything, but we have a great team working hard every day.

If you have not checked us out on the web of FB, please do. and
Old     (john211)      Join Date: Aug 2008       03-13-2015, 1:12 PM Reply   
Tow boat history has happier endings ... but with comparable shocks and plot twists.
Old     (trayson)      Join Date: May 2013 Location: Vancouver WA       03-13-2015, 8:31 PM Reply   
Crazy, but interesting. So wierd that the pnw has so often been at the center...
Old     (Redheadd)      Join Date: Apr 2014       03-15-2015, 7:58 AM Reply   
Can someone clarify how SS or ronix is better then LF or HYPERLITE.
Old     (MattieK27)      Join Date: Mar 2010       03-15-2015, 5:49 PM Reply   
Originally Posted by Redheadd View Post
Can someone clarify how SS or ronix is better then LF or HYPERLITE.
Define better. To some of us, its a simple question of supporting the monopoly who runs smaller firms out of business, or supporting independent smaller companies.
Old     (VinnyA)      Join Date: Aug 2011       03-17-2015, 2:20 PM Reply   
Red, in this context it would be "how SS or Ronix is better than LF and hyperlite.

With organizations under the Kent umbrella, there's the opportunity that there's a financial or organizational structure sucking money away from what would be going to athletes or R&D.
Or that such a large organization could be artificially inflating prices, but seeing the price tag on some of the independent companies product doesn't make for a convincing argument on that front.

Thank you for all your effort with the WHOF. Such a sick initiative and the site/fb page have some killer content to boot.
I would love to see a piece about the history of trick names, because it seems that learning them is a hassle for newcomers (& kiteboarders lol) but there's a ton of history in them; Chet raley being in the boat when Shapiro did the first Raley behind the boat & Scott Byerly sliding out on his toes when inventing the Pete Rose like Pete Rose sliding into home base. Or even like what union did for this piece on the method
(If you're open to suggestions lol)
Old     (buffalow)      Join Date: Apr 2002       03-18-2015, 8:43 AM Reply   
Vinny - Already on it - We will have ever trick , with inventor and backstory. Just going to take awhile. We have some many things on our plate. I have a list of every champion of wake, but hoping to find photos/videos to match to. There are so many incredible stories and riders and innovations that every little thing takes along time. In the mean time we need to run it like a business, raise money, plan for the future, etc.. All fun and exciting stuff. Thank you for the support.
Old     (willyt)      Join Date: May 2010       03-18-2015, 9:16 AM Reply   
anyone think its strange that the kent website lists their address as new london ohio? basically in the middle of nowhere, ohio?
Old     (behindtheboat)      Join Date: Aug 2006       03-18-2015, 9:21 AM Reply   
Without Kent, what's to say the "independents" wouldn't charge whatever they want? More than likely Kent is keeping the pricing down.
Old     (Redheadd)      Join Date: Apr 2014       03-18-2015, 9:59 AM Reply   
Plus without kent maybe the the independents or the sport would keep progressing technology wise? Competion is a good thing in every facet of buisiness
Old     (VinnyA)      Join Date: Aug 2011       03-18-2015, 1:56 PM Reply   
A dub, independent companies wouldn't charge whatever they want because nobody would buy their product if it was 3x more expensive and not quality
And due to the fact that they're an independent company, they have no control over what other companies will charge, allowing other companies to sell more product at a lower price.
With Kent, since 5+ companies with major marketshare are actually tied to one another, they can confidently raise their prices collectively and know that consumers won't have other outlets to go to.
Like we said before though, the fact that CTRL,SS,Ronix & Humanoid charge at the same pricepoint doesn't lend itself to that theory.

If all Kent companies share profits, LF and Hyperlite and obrien and everything else have to be treated as the same actor in the market. Since they are 1 company they actually aren't competing at all.
Think of it as one company offering you system bindings (hyperlite) and traditional bindings (LF)
Even if the market demanded more system bindings, there's no reason for LF to fill that demand because Hyperlite has it covered.
Where as when Ronix develops brainframe tech, and the market wants more, kent isn't involved at all. And there's reason for Kent to develop a new better technology to steal customers from ronix.
Again,this assumes that all Kent brands share profits.
It'd be great if someone with financial insight could confirm/deny this critical assumption.
Old     (bill_airjunky)      Join Date: Apr 2002       03-18-2015, 3:18 PM Reply   
Haha, digging up an old story, huh. Guess I'll have to rack my brains to think of some things to add to it.
Old     (VinnyA)      Join Date: Aug 2011       03-18-2015, 8:05 PM Reply   
^The man, the myth, the legend! hahahha
So stoked when I saw your username appear on the "last post by"

Please share your wealth of knowledge with us.
Old     (biggator)      Join Date: Jul 2010       03-19-2015, 6:10 AM Reply   
Originally Posted by VinnyA View Post
A dub, independent companies wouldn't charge whatever they want because nobody would buy their product if it was 3x more expensive and not quality
I'm not sure about this.. see wakesurfing. Yes, the quality is there - but a 4'6" wakesurf board is almost twice as much as a 7' actual ocean surfboard.
Old     (VinnyA)      Join Date: Aug 2011       03-19-2015, 6:02 PM Reply   
I hear you. I guess I'm holding too many economic assumptions before I started preaching what I'm learning in classes.
In reality, clearly people aren't rational hahaha But you could say that there are different markets, or different costs bared by the manufacturers to explain that.

I don't think it validates the counterargument.


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