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K2 Says Its Chief Executive Resigned

Jobs: Richard Rodstein is replaced by the sports equipment maker's chairman, Richard Heckmann, founder of U.S. Filter.

October 12, 2002|LESLIE EARNEST | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sports equipment maker K2 Inc. said Friday that Chief Executive Richard M. Rodstein resigned and is being replaced by Chairman Richard J. Heckmann.

Heckmann, 58, was founder and chief executive of U.S. Filter, the nation's largest water-treatment company before it was acquired by Vivendi for $6.2 billion in 1999. He joined K2's board that same year and became chairman in April 2000.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Heckmann compared the opportunities at Los Angeles-based K2 to his experience with U.S. Filter, which he founded in Palm Desert in 1990. U.S. Filter grew rapidly by acquiring more than 200 water-related companies, including Culligan Water Technologies.

"We're going to have an opportunity like we did in the 1990s with U.S. Filter to really grow solid businesses," he said.

K2 is well-known in the sports-equipment industry, with a stable of brands that includes K2 and Ride snowboards, K2 skis, Shakespeare fishing equipment and Stearns life jackets and other inflatable devices. But in 2001, the company posted its first loss in at least 14 years of $7.7 million on an 11% decline in sales to $595 million.

The $2.1-billion snow sports industry has been struggling. Last winter, sales were down 4.8%, said John Stouffer, editor of TransWorld Snowboarding Business magazine.

Heckmann said K2 has considerable growth potential, which could be realized by building the brands, beefing up management and perhaps adding products or divisions.

"It's a great collection of brands that over the last five years hasn't grown at all," Heckmann said. "I'd like us to be more focused on growth in the areas where it's very strong, which are the fishing and all the outdoor recreational sports."

After U.S. Filter was sold, Heckman spent a couple of years golfing but ultimately missed the "fun of building companies," he said.

He declined to elaborate on Rodstein's departure except to say the resignation "was a mutual agreement" between Rodstein, 47, and the board.

Rodstein, who will become a consultant to K2, could not be reached for comment.

Rodstein joined the company in 1983 and has held various executive positions, including president and CEO, since 1996. Rodstein was president and chief operating officer from 1990 to 1995.

K2 also said that J. Wayne Merck, executive vice president, has assumed the chief operating officer post.

K2's stock closed Friday at $6.71, up 31 cents, in New York Stock Exchange trading. The announcement was made after the market closed.

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