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Oakley Stock Shoots Up 18% in Public Debut : Wall Street: Price opens at 23, closes at $27.125. Some 7.4 million shares in the sunglasses maker are exchanged.


IRVINE — Oakley Inc., whose pricey sports sunglasses grace the noses of grungy surfers and Olympic athletes alike, saw its stock rise 18% on Thursday in a strong debut as a publicly owned company.

The stock, which rose $4.125 per share from the initial offering price, thrust Oakley founder and President Jim Jannard into the ranks of Orange County's wealthiest. Jannard, 45, sold stock worth $139 million at the opening price of $23 a share and kept shares worth $627 million based on the closing price of $27.125 a share.

Oakley's success provides yet another indication that investors still have a healthy appetite for new offers, although the sale did not create same kind of frenzy the debut a day earlier of Netscape Communications Corp. of Mountain View, Calif. The 15-month-old software maker's stock, which had been priced at $28 before trading, soared to $74.75 on Wednesday before settling at $58.25. The stock fell another $6.875 on Thursday to close at $51.375 in Nasdaq trading.

Some 7.4 million shares of Irvine-based Oakley were exchanged Thursday, making it the most active issue on the New York Stock Exchange. The company and its officers were offering a total of 10 million shares.

Analysts said the Oakley's first-day performance was in line with expectations.

"We are not surprised," said Kathleen Smith, analyst for Renaissance Capital Corp., a Greenwich, Conn., company that researches new public offerings. "These guys have a very popular product line. . . . They are a very profitable company."

Mark Basham, a new-issues analyst for the ratings agency Standard & Poor's Corp. in New York, added: "It's a great company, and it will be a great company if they keep their margins up."

Oakley earns large profit margins on its line of high-fashion sunglasses, which sell for between $40 and $225 a pair at retail. The company, which Jannard started in 1975, initially made motorcycle handgrips before turning to goggles and sunglasses. Oakley Inc. earned $8.3 million last year on sales of $124 million.

The company sold 3.3 million shares to raise at least $57 million for a new plant and debt repayment. Oakley plans to move its 600 employees to new quarters in the Foothill Ranch section of South Orange County next year.

Jannard himself sold 6 million shares, reducing his stake in Oakley from 90% to 65%. The remaining shares were sold by other Oakley executives. The company said, Jannard earned a salary of $380,670 last year. Jannard also received a bonus of $20.9 million to help defray corporate taxes that he owed as owner of a private corporation.

Jannard and other company officers were not available for comment Thursday. They were returning from New York after participating in a "road show" to introduce Oakley to Wall Street.

At the presentation, the company showed a flashy video of snow boarders, surfers and other athletes wearing Oakley sunglasses, Bloomberg Business News reported.

"Isn't America a great country?" Jannard said as the video ended.

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