Orange County retail and consumer business veteran Scott Olivet’s latest involvements are as varied and eclectic as his 15,000-square-foot personal Irvine office, whose rooms feature ancient Japanese Buddhist statues alongside contemporary Western paintings and sculptures.
The former CEO of locally based Oakley and Red Digital Cinema, and current operating partner of Palo Alto private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners, has recently taken up a host of charitable pursuits.
Olivet last month joined the board of The Ecology Center, a San Juan Capistrano-based, 28-acre regenerative organic farm, which aims to educate others on the benefits of sustainable farming, ecology and health.
“Grow, eat, make peace,” Olivet said when announcing the new appointment.
It’s one of the many boards Olivet sits on, some of which include Cedar Fair LP (NYSE: FUN), the entertainment firm that owns Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, and San Clemente-based sock manufacturer FutureStitch, where he serves as chairman.
Olivet’s first foray into business began in the seventh grade, when he lived in Colorado.
The company he founded, DSO Maintenance, started out to help his father clean up the single-family homes he rented to tenants.
“The state that people left these homes in was just astonishingly bad,” Olivet said.
Olivet, along with his friends, advertised DSO Maintenance to other managers of rental properties. He also worked for a local window cleaning business.
“After a summer of working there, I realized that was the worst-run business in the world,” due to the company’s poor customer service and employee retention, Olivet said.
That led him to start his own window cleaning company, “because I thought I could do better.”
A prior client of DSO Maintenance caught wind of Olivet’s window cleaning business and asked Olivet to create a window cleaning division for the commercial maintenance company he ran.
Olivet accepted the offer, leading that company’s window cleaning division while still attending high school.
Climbing the Ranks
Olivet moved from Colorado to California to attend Pomona College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in government.
He graduated from Pomona in 1984, the same year he joined Bain & Co. as a consultant.
There, he advised companies with global integrations and large-scale change management.
“What I learned then has come in handy more than almost anything I learned in business school,” Olivet said.
“The ability to take your learnings from elsewhere and apply them to the situation at hand” has been a most valuable skill.
Olivet earned his MBA, which Bain paid for, from Stanford University in 1990. He made partner at the consulting firm less than three years after graduating.
A client of his at the time, The Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS), recruited him from Bain for its aggressive expansion plan: increasing store openings from 80 to 800 a year.
That meant finding three locations a day, signing three leases a day and opening three stores a day, seven days a week, Olivet said.
While at the apparel company, Olivet met Nike founder Phil Knight, who eventually hired him to handle acquisitions and non-Nike brands.
It was as Nike’s VP of subsidiaries and new business development that Olivet came across the first Orange County company he would work with: Hurley.
Under Olivet’s direction, Nike acquired the surf apparel company in 2002, which he oversaw.
He went on to lead the acquisitions of other companies, such as Converse, which he also oversaw, before getting recruited by founder Jim Jannard to run Foothill Ranch-based eyewear company Oakley in 2005.
Like with Gap, Olivet was tasked with yet another expansion plan at Oakley.
The challenge, however, was not rapid geographic expansion, but penetration into new markets.
The company at the time saw zero growth, “maybe even declining growth in the eyewear division,” Olivet said.
To address that, Olivet led the charge for Oakley’s entry into women’s eyewear. The company adopted new, high-end fashion styles for glasses that catered to women, but still sported Oakley’s signature lens quality.
Olivet also urged the company to strengthen its presence in Europe, because “Europe buys more sunglasses than the U.S.”
The initiatives propelled Oakley from almost no growth in eyewear to over 20% annually for the next five years.
During his tenure as CEO, Olivet sold Oakley to Luxottica for $2.1 billion. He stayed with the company for a few more years before moving to upstart high-definition camera maker Red Digital, at the request of company founder Jannard.
Olivet commuted from his Laguna Beach home to Red Digital’s R&D movie studio in Hollywood for two years as CEO of the company.
That commute was hardly as demanding as his commute to Topeka, Kan., as chairman for Collective Brands, which owned footwear Payless ShoeSource, Sperry and Airwalk.
On those weekly plane flights, Olivet devised a concept for a portfolio company that could help established action sports brands grow without spending too much on resources.
“This was the beginning of e-commerce,” before firms like Shopify, which can get businesses up and running overnight, he added.
Olivet took his idea to the partners of Altamont Capital, where he has served as operating partner since 2013. Together, they brought Olivet’s idea to fruition.
Irvine-based motocross and mountain biking apparel and equipment company Fox Racing was one of the brands Altamont Capital acquired under Olivet’s portfolio concept. Other companies once under that umbrella were Huff and Brixton, which Olivet is still on the board of.
“The original idea was that we would sell the portfolio of companies together,” Olivet said.
“But then it seemed it would be better to sell them one by one.”
Altamont sold Fox last year to outdoor sports company Vista Outdoor Inc. (NYSE: VSTO) for $540 million.
With 35 years of retail leadership experience under his belt, Olivet has now shifted his focus to mentoring the next generation in the industry.
“Until I was 50 years old, I literally did not work less than 80 hours a week,” he said. “I made a lot of life trade-offs for my career.
“If I can be a sounding board or coach to help the next generation learn from my mistakes, so they don’t have to give up as much, that makes me feel a lot better about what I sacrificed,” he added.
Taylor Shupe, CEO of FutureStitch, is one beneficiary of Olivet’s mentorship.
Shupe and Olivet are currently building out the sock manufacturer’s Boss Stitch program, which aims to help and rehabilitate formerly incarcerated individuals by providing them employment and other forms of support, such as self-defense classes.
More than half of the company’s staff in its Oceanside facilities have been “justice-impacted.”
“Everybody deserves a second chance,” Olivet said.
FutureStitch aims to take a “holistic” view of supporting its formerly incarcerated employees. The company has provided legal assistance, from preparing materials to send to judges or helping staff members earn back custody of their children.
FutureStitch last summer also created a space for employees to leave their kids while they’re on the clock and unable to attend to them when school is out.
Olivet and Shupe are looking to expand the Boss Stitch program to beyond California, though they both anticipate difficulty in finding the same level of resources and support they have in other states.
“The state’s government and nonprofits we work with have been nothing short of spectacular in helping,” Olivet said. “That might exist in other places,” but they are skeptical, he added.
Among Scott Olivet’s numerous involvements are businesses and leadership groups that aim to help individuals and address social issues he is passionate about.
At San Juan Capistrano’s The Ecology Center, Olivet is helping the nonprofit adjust to the recent long-term lease on its 27-acre expansion.
The organic regenerative farm, which educates guests on the benefits of sustainable agriculture through programs and its café, increased its footprint from 1 to 28 acres over the past four years.
“That changes the center’s dynamics dramatically,” Olivet said.
Another one of Olivet’s passion projects is one he started with auto industry veteran Max Gilmore.
Auto Addiction LLC, the Lake Forest-based classic car storage, maintenance and restoration center Olivet co-founded two years ago, holds at least 10 charity events a year.
The company recently held an auction that raised over $14,000 for those impacted by the mass shooting that killed three and injured six at Cook’s Corner in Trabuco Canyon.
Other Auto Addiction events are similarly aimed at fostering community, such as its upcoming family-friendly Trunk or Treat barbecue, complete with cars, candy and cocktails.
While Auto Addiction and The Ecology Center satisfy Olivet’s desire to give back locally, he is still contemplating how to create an impact on a national or international level.
His membership at Alder, a network of business leaders looking to create societal impact—founded by residential and hotel developer Paul Makarechian—has planted a newfound sense of urgency in Olivet to determine the larger impact he would like to make.
“The mindset I and most people have is to become successful and then give back when they retire,” Olivet said.
That changed when Alder CEO Michael Davidson told Olivet that their organization “is about living your legacy, not leaving your legacy.”
In his exploration of what his broader legacy might be, Olivet draws on his recent trips to Ukraine with Alder, and prior trips to Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Sudan, coupled with longtime passion for international relations, which he pursued beyond his government major at Pomona College.
He spent almost a year at Oxford University writing a dissertation on the political, economic and technical links between the spread of nuclear power and the spread of nuclear weapons.
“My dream was always to become Secretary of Defense,” he said.
He hopes his broader charitable initiative will combine his fascination with international relations and the skills he’s used to grow Gap, Nike, Oakley and Red Digital among the other companies he has led.
“Writing a check doesn’t give me a ton of satisfaction,” Olivet said. “Where I get the most is bringing my skill set in setting vision and strategy to help an organization get better at what they do.”