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Hurley Family Revs Up for Next Act

Hurley is synonymous with surf, but for the next act of the family associated with the global surf brand, they’re looking to pump years of expertise into investing in the next generation of upstarts.

That would be through the newly established Kandui Holdings LLC of Newport Beach, with the first acquisition earlier this month being that of the ’90s footwear brand Simple, now operating as Simple Shoes LLC. That was followed up last week with the announcement of a partnership between Kandui and two-time world surf champion John John Florence on the new apparel line Florence Marine X.

Kandui is the product of founders Jeff Hurley, who is also CEO, Bob Hurley, Ryan Hurley and brother-in-law Chance King and is aimed at buying brands or partnering with them to provide services such as design, sales, marketing and operations.

It’s early days, but Kandui is already making big moves.

Florence, who previously rode for the Hurley label, wasted no time founding his apparel line following his split from the surfwear brand earlier this year.

Florence Marine X is set to debut with its spring 2021 collection of men’s apparel, wetsuits and boardshorts.

“We’ve been on the same team before and we really had a whole lotta fun,” Bob Hurley said in a statement on Kandui’s partnership with Florence.

In the case of Simple, most of the brand’s business is currently direct-to-consumer through its online site, with Jeff Hurley saying wholesale is a small piece of the overall business.

“Connecting with consumers directly will remain a top priority,” said Jeff, the son of Hurley founder Bob Hurley.

“In addition, we plan on keeping the current [retailers] and bringing on the right new wholesale partners that will help drive brand awareness but are not looking to just chase volume at the expense of brand integrity.”

Simple Plan

Kandui’s also already outlined plans for Simple, which will soon be opening headquarters somewhere in Orange County, Jeff Hurley told the Business Journal.

Simple’s product assortment currently is lean, with a handful of men’s and women’s sneaker styles and clogs, plus flip-flops, T-shirts and shoelaces.

Kandui’s looking at “enhancing” the product lineup rather than a full overhaul and there will also be more apparel and accessories, Hurley said.

“We will be driving a ‘defining’ item approach, amplifying the best products and not just making a bunch of stuff,” he said. “Everything we make should live up to the name Simple.”

The shoe company stood out in the ’90s marketplace, with a distinct voice playing up aspects such as sustainability and workers’ rights via illustrations from artist ambassador Dan Price, a maker of zines who Simple began sponsoring in 1994.

“We particularly love Simple’s advertisements from the early ’90s,” Hurley said. “They really set the tone and attitude of the brand. Simple had fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. We definitely will take inspiration from the early days. At the same time, we are not trying to make Simple a ‘retro’ or ‘vintage’ brand and will make sure we are looking forward, not backward.”

Simple’s History

Simple’s had a wild ride.

Eric Meyer started Simple at the end of 1991, drawing inspiration from the worlds of surf and skate. Two years later Goleta-based footwear conglomerate Deckers Outdoor Corp. (NYSE: DECK) bought the business, moving the brand from San Luis Obispo to Carpinteria. It was a big move considering Simple had been financed by family and friends, never having taken outside funding.

Deckers, with a market cap of $6.2 billion, owns brands such as Sanuk, Ugg and Teva.

Simple grew and reportedly hit its high in the late ’90s with sales of $28.9 million, but in 2011 Deckers decided to halt distribution of the shoes following its $120 million acquisition of the then Irvine-headquartered Sanuk brand, with Deckers President and CEO Angel Martinez citing redundancies in the two businesses’ customer bases.

Footwear veteran Denis Ryan picked up the story of Simple in 2015, launching a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $25,000 to bring the brand back. Fans ended up pledging $121,508 to breathe new life into Simple.

And that’s where the shoe company’s path intertwined with the Hurley family.

“Back in December, [the Hurley family] became free agents and were put in touch with Denis Ryan, who owned Simple, via mutual friends,” Hurley said.

The Hurley family left the brand that bears their name in December, the same month New York licensing firm Bluestar Alliance LLC closed on its deal to buy the surfwear brand from Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE), which had the business under its fold since its 2002 purchase of the brand for a reported $100 million to $140 million.

Bluestar slimmed the company’s ranks, cutting ties with some of the brand’s sponsored athletes as layoffs hit Hurley headquarters. Bob Hurley had been at the brand he started in 1998 as founder and brand ambassador, Ryan Hurley had served as chief marketing officer and Jeff Hurley was previously head of product.

The family quickly regrouped with the launch of Kandui Holdings.

Reinvention

They’re not the first from Orange County’s action sports space to reinvent themselves. Paul Naude, who is credited with growing the North American business of Australia-based Billabong International Ltd., runs Stokehouse Unlimited. Quiksilver Inc. founder Bob McKnight most recently invested in and is advising Huntington Beach distillery Surf City Still Works (see the Aug. 3 print edition of the Business Journal). And Oakley Inc. founder Jim Jannard never stopped inventing, moving on from the eyewear company to start Red Digital Cinema Camera Co. out of Irvine and is now working on something—after announcing his retirement late last year—that he’s dubbed “just for fun” in Saigon, where he’s currently taken up residence.

Buying Opportunities

Hurley called Kandui a “platform for brands,” with Simple being the first.

Given the founding team’s background in the action sports space, deals within the apparel, accessories and footwear segments would seem appropriate.

“Obviously, our strength is in the space you mention,” Hurley said, “but we are open to whatever might make sense to us.”

The company’s acquisition strategy would also seem to be focused on the emerging brands of the world.

“We are looking specifically for small brands, hidden gems, and startups where we can use our expertise to create value,” Hurley said. “We are not aggressively pursuing, but taking opportunities as they come up and make sense.”

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