Jack Gilbert at Sierra Designs

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This is an Outdoor Industry story. I’m here with Mike Wallenfels. My name is Jack Gilbert and in 1993 I was the president of a company called Sierra Designs in Berkeley, California. After a 20 year career with North Face I had come back to Berkley I was excited about the smaller company. We weren’t as big as
The North Face but we had some great people and some great designs and we were part of an outdoor conglomerate that was owned by Odyssey Industry, the Hong Kong company that had purchased North Face and Marmot and Sierra Designs in 1988.

And for the first year on the job I had a great time. I had hired some terrific people. And then our parent company in Hong Kong had the misfortune to go into bankruptcy while leaving the smaller companies alone. So we had to figure out what the heck we were going to do, what was going to happen to our company. The chances were we were going to be sold to somebody, but the opportunity came along that we might actually be able to buy the company ourselves if we could raise some money and we were pretty excited about that. It seemed like – I was 50 years old and I thought maybe it was time for me to be part of something that I owned a little bit of.

So we’re in contact on a regular basis with our Hong Kong company and things got more and more bizarre. A lot of questions came through that were not really worth answering. They didn’t have anything to do with running the business. And so finally after a matter of months I stopped answering the faxes I got. There was no email this time. And finally I got a letter from the president of the company Bill Simon saying, “Have you fallen off the face of the earth? What’s wrong with you? Best regards, Bill.”

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This Story is part of a Series...

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