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Looking at Life Through Rose-Colored Sunglasses


Jim Jannard's is an "only in California" story.

The 46-year-old entrepreneur started a little sunglass company in 1975 and turned it into an industry giant, largely by making glasses with styling on the cutting edge and prices in the stratosphere.

Last August, Jannard went public with the Irvine-based company, Oakley Inc., selling 10 million shares--4 million from the company and 6 million of his own--in an initial offering priced at $23 per share.

That netted the publicity-shy executive $138 million. The same year, he received a $9.3-million bonus from the company and took possession, through a separate business, of a $12-million corporate jet. He hasn't looked back since.

Jannard kept almost 22 million shares of Oakley common stock--a 61% interest--and it made him a billionaire as the stock price passed the $49 mark on the New York Stock Exchange on April 17.

Jannard, who is chairman and president, has kept his company in the forefront by staying on the leading edge of the fastest-growing segment of the sunglass industry: the sports market.

With guidance from the likes of baseball star Tony Gwynn and NBA star Michael Jordan--an Oakley shareholder and board member--Oakley crafts sunglasses tailored to each major sport. Prices range from $40 to more than $200 a pair.

Jannard has yet to submit to an interview. "He doesn't like the spotlight," a company executive said before Oakley's initial public offering. "That's not his goal in life."

Oakley, which sells its glasses and sports goggles worldwide, will soon move to a new manufacturing plant and corporate headquarters complex in Foothill Ranch in south Orange County. The 400,000-square-foot building on a 40-acre parcel will incorporate a regulation-size basketball court and give employees access to nearby hiking trails.

Before then, however, Oakley plans to sell 5 million more shares to the public, but it won't be newly issued stock.

Jannard is selling 4.5 million shares, cutting his ownership stake to 48.4% and, at present prices, adding about $225 million to his savings account. Company Chief Executive Mike Parnell--a longtime Jannard associate and No. 40 on The Times' list of most highly paid executives, with $1.7 million in cash pay last year--will sell 500,000 shares, dropping his stake to 5.4%.

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