They are the fabric of the surf industry — two giant brands and longtime rivals competing for market share in the water and on dry land.
Details emerged this week that Huntington Beach-based Quiksilver — now called Boardriders Inc. – wants to buy Billabong International, a brand based in Australia with its North American division in Irvine.
Billabong in a statement confirmed Friday it received a preliminary takeover proposal from Boardriders, an offer that put the company’s value at about $150 million.
Both companies have endured rough waters in recent years, filing bankruptcy, changing leadership and seeking bailouts by a private investment firm looking to revive the fledgling brands.
Quiksilver was born in Australia but really caught its wave of popularity after Bob McKnight and and Jeff Hakman bought the license to sell in the U.S., building the brand out of a Newport Beach home. By the 1980s, they were the hottest brand around and the largest in the growing surf industry.
By 1986, just as the company was about to hit $20 million, McKnight took the brand public. Major department stores and discount retailers were stocking their shelves with the surfwear. By the late ’80s, it was the world’s largest surf brand, with sales of about $100 million worldwide.
In the early 2000s, Quiksilver was posting annual revenue north of $2 billion, selling 100 million garments a year through its three brands, Quiksilver, Roxy and DC.
The deal on the table wouldn’t be the first attempted merger for Quiksilver, which in 2005 bought the Rossignol skiwear company and half ownership in Cleveland Golf for $560 million – a deal that had a severe wipeout. Over the next two years, Quiksilver sold off both Rossignol and Cleveland, losing about $400 million.
The brand hasn’t been able to regain its footing and…