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Oakley Replaces CEO With Former Gatorade Executive


In a surprise move, sunglass maker Oakley Inc. demoted its chief executive, replacing him with a former Gatorade executive who has extensive marketing and advertising experience.

William D. Schmidt, 51, who left Gatorade last month as vice president of worldwide sports marketing, will take over as chief executive of Foothill Ranch-based Oakley on May 1.

He replaces Link Newcomb, who becomes chief operating officer, a new position. Newcomb, who became CEO in 1997, remains on the board.

The company said it made the switch because Schmidt has the background to push Oakley to "the next level"--a company that eventually will generate global sales of $1 billion a year.

Schmidt, who was introduced to Oakley by basketball star Michael Jordan, said he will move to build the Oakley brand by focusing on marketing and advertising, including using more star athletes to market the company's sports-oriented eye wear and other products.

Initially, Schmidt said, he intends to better define Oakley's consumer and then find ways to advertise and market to the subgroups who buy Oakley products, including surfers, skiers and snowboarders.

Schmidt said Wednesday he was impressed by Oakley from the day he entered the fortress-like headquarters 18 months ago, when Jordan, an Oakley director, nominated him to serve on the board.

"The culture is incredible, and the enthusiasm is contagious," he said.

Newcomb, who began working at Oakley in June 1994 as vice president of international sales, expressed no bitterness about the switch. "I share the vision that this company has the potential to be $1 billion in sales," he said. "And I welcome someone who has been there and done that."

The company also said first-quarter earnings rose 8% to $1.4 million, or 2 cents a share, from $1.3 million, or 2 cents a share a year ago on a higher number of shares outstanding. Sales increased 19% to $48.7 million from $41 million.

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