1350 Broadway, Suite 2300
Over the past 90 years, Everlast products have become the "Choice of Champions," having been used for training and professional fights by many of the biggest names in the sport.
Everlast, a brand name all but synonymous with the sport of boxing, has been reborn after being acquired in the year 2000 by longtime licensee, Active Apparel Group, which subsequently changed its name to Everlast Worldwide Inc. In addition to its corporate headquarters in Manhattan, the company has manufacturing facilities in the Bronx and Moberly, Missouri, where it produces a wide range of boxing equipment: from trunks, robes, and gloves to protective mouthpieces and protective cups, as well as speed bags and heavy bags for training. Everlast also offers complete boxing rings. Although sales to the limited market of professional prizefighters have a minor impact on the balance sheet, a continued connection of the Everlast name with boxing is instrumental in maintaining worldwide recognition for the label. Brand awareness is key to the company's more lucrative activities: the production of sportswear products and the licensing of the Everlast name to an array of other items, from watches to fitness equipment. Active Apparel's founder, George Horowitz, owns close to 22 percent of the company and serves as chairman, president, and chief executive officer.
Establishment of Everlast: 1910
A 17-year son of a tailor, Jacob Golomb, and his wife Hannah founded Everlast in the Bronx in 1910 to manufacture swimsuits. The name of the company was derived from his guarantee that the outfits would last an entire summer. Within a few years he began to produce other sports equipment and opened a shop in the Bronx to sell his wares. An avid fight fan, Golomb also began to make boxing equipment, and within a few years his store became known as Boxing Headquarters. The connection of the Everlast name with champions began in 1916 when future heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey turned to Golomb for equipment. According to his biographers, Dempsey was unheralded when he arrived in New York in 1916, but apparently Golomb recognized the boxer's potential and granted him credit on training gear. Dempsey failed to launch his professional boxing career at this time, however, and returned to the West, where in reduced circumstances he picked fruit, dug ditches, and washed dishes. A new manager, Doc Kearns, provided Dempsey with a second chance, and it was late in 1917 that the boxer began to make a name for himself after a pair of noteworthy fights in San Francisco. He returned to the New York area in 1918, knocking out the number one contender in Harrison, New Jersey, which resulted in a title fight against Jess Willard on July 4, 1919. Dempsey, forever grateful to Golomb, was wearing Everlast boxing gloves on the day he became the heavyweight champion of the world. For years he freely endorsed Everlast products.
To replace the trunks secured by a leather belt that most boxers wore, Golomb introduced trunks with an elastic waistband in the mid-1920s. He continued to add to his line of boxing equipment, so that by the 1930s Everlast's ties to the sport were deeply ingrained. With all the great fighters wearing Everlast trunks and robes and fighting with Everlast gloves, the company gained the reputation as "The Choice of Champions." To the general public, Everlast and its distinctive concave logo became virtually synonymous with boxing.
After Jacob Golomb died in the 1950s, the business was taken over by his son David. In 1958, David Golomb sold a half-interest to Ben Nadorf, but it remained very much a private business. Nadorf was instrumental in expanding Everlast and opening a second manufacturing operation in Moberly, Missouri, in 1966. It was in Moberly that Everlast produced complete boxing rings, including ropes, turnbuckles, corner stools, and 12-inch gongs to mark the rounds of a fight.
Long dominant in boxing, Everlast was not quick to adapt to the changing world of the 1960s and 1970s. The sport of boxing remained popular, but young boys no longer received a pair of boxing gloves in much the same way they would a baseball glove or a basketball. Moreover, the company faced increased pressure from foreign companies that now made copycat boxing equipment, which was carried by the modern sporting goods chains, as opposed to the smaller stores that Everlast traditionally preferred. Apparel companies, however, recognized that the Everlast label possessed international recognition, promoted by its recognizable logo, which was seen during countless fights on television: on the waistbands on trunks, the cuffs on gloves, and the stanchions supporting the ring turnbuckles. Everlast also received free play when it appeared in the advertising of other products. Despite the company's lack of interest in actively promoting itself, the Everlast label had achieved an incredible level of recognition. Virtually without trying, the company had created a brand with a penetration that others could only dream about. With its longtime connection to boxing, Everlast possessed an athletic and tough image, as well as associations to an edgy world. In others words, it had the making of becoming incredibly hip, a brand in a category all by itself with immense untapped value.
Beginning of Licensing: 1980s
It was in 1983 that the company first agreed to license the Everlast name. Apparel maker Gerson & Gerson licensed the label to market a line of novelty women's shorts and robes. To promote the items, Gerson employed models who shadowboxed in department stores wearing skimpy tank tops and shorts, a campaign that failed miserably. According to a 1990 Forbes article, "To many shoppers, the soft-porn approach seemed only slightly more upscale than mud-wrestling. ... Everlast learned an important lesson: If you're selling macho by association, go light on the macho. Capitalize on the scrappy image without offending the target market with lurid images of boxing mayhem." Licensing became an increasingly more important source of income for Everlast as boxing equipment sales tapered off, although sales of sports equipment such as punching bags, wrestling mats, and pommel horses to schools and gyms remained steady. Relying primarily on an outside agent, Everlast by the end of the 1980s licensed its name to more than a dozen companies, its logo found on a wide range of sportswear as well as sports products such as equipment bags. Everlast merchandise was sold in such upscale department stores as Bloomingdale's, Macy's, and Nordstrom, and not found in mass merchandisers such as Kmart. In addition, during the 1980s Everlast sought to take advantage of a fitness boom and began manufacturing some new exercise items, including ankle and wrist weights for women, exercise wheels, and other home items.
Everlast became associated with its chairman and current chief executive, George Horowitz, in 1992 when the company asked him to launch a line of women's sportswear under the Everlast label. Born in Brooklyn Horowitz actually grew up far more interested in boxing than in women's apparel and essentially became involved in the garment industry by chance. His father introduced him to boxing, and, according to Horowitz, he developed a passion for the sport by the time he was five years old. He often attended fights with his father at Madison Square Garden, where he became familiar with the Everlast logo in the ring. Horowitz graduated from Long Island University during the height of the Vietnam War, and instead of going on to law school he elected to take a draft exemption by teaching social studies in the New York public school system as well as indulging his interest in sports by coaching basketball and track. When New York fell into a severe financial crisis in the mid-1970s, Horowitz, who lacked tenure, lost his job. To support himself and his pregnant wife, he sold insurance for a year, a job he was glad to leave when presented in 1976 with an opportunity to help start an apparel company called Golden Touch Imports with a family friend. It was only because of this unanticipated set of circumstances that Horowitz established a career in fashion.
Horowitz started out as the vice-president of operations at Golden Touch, which did about $1 million in business in its first year. Fifteen years later it was a $250 million international concern and Horowitz was part owner, although not the major partner. He struck out on his own in 1990, starting up his own company to produce no-name activewear and sportswear. In 1992, he formally incorporated the business as TI Sportswear, Inc. In that same year Everlast approached him about licensing the Everlast label for women's sportswear. Upon receiving the license he changed the name of his company to Active Apparel. In the early days, when the company was staffed by just three people, Horowitz hired Rita Cinque as a consultant. She soon disbanded her own three-year-old business to join the new firm and became instrumental in the quick rise of Active Apparel, which took full advantage of the Everlast license.
Everlast originally asked Horowitz if he was capable of doing half a million dollars in business under the Everlast label during the first year. When he was able to generate $6.7 million in sales for 1993 by focusing on the theme of women's empowerment, followed by $12 million in 1994, Horowitz solidified his relationship with Golomb and Nadorf. Proving to be a tireless promoter of the Everlast women's line, he crisscrossed the country and even became involved in women's boxing. To take advantage of Active Apparel's success in transforming a traditionally male-dominated brand into a lucrative women's line of clothing, he soon signed a licensing agreement with Converse. In 1995, he took Active Apparel public, offering initial shares at $6.25 and netting $4 million. He took the company in a different direction in 1996 when he obtained a license from MTV based on a popular dance show and launched The Grind Line collection. Everlast, however, remained the most lucrative part of Active Apparel's business, and Horowitz eagerly strengthened his ties to the boxing label. Late in 1997, Active Apparel began to sell a line of bathing suits under the Everlast Woman brand. To focus all the company's attention on Everlast, Horowitz soon jettisoned Converse and MTV. He subsequently landed the Everlast menswear license as well, leading to even more robust business for Active Apparel. Promotional efforts were stepped up, leading to "Everlast Week" activities conducted at major retailers. The company also opened concept stores in Bloomingdale's.
Falling out of Favor in the 1990s
While the licensing business, spearheaded by Active Apparel, was doing well for Everlast in the 1990s, its traditional boxing equipment business was deteriorating rapidly. Its shoes were of poor quality, essentially generic products made in Pakistan with the Everlast logo stitched on. Furthermore, the company's robes and trunks had not kept current with changing styles and its gloves no longer appealed to professional fighters. They were not considered to be "punchers' gloves," nor were they durable, leading some to call them "Neverlast." Other companies took advantage of the decline in Everlast, including new glove manufacturers Grant and Reyes. Rather than answer the upstart competition by improving the quality of their boxing equipment, the company allegedly turned to unsavory means of maintaining its market dominance. In 1998, Grant's founder, Grant Elvis Philips, sued in federal court, accusing Everlast of conducting a smear campaign against him. He claimed that Everlast personnel spread a number of nasty rumors about his operation: that it illegally smuggled products into the country, lacked product-liability insurance, bribed fighters to wear Grant Gloves, and produced gloves that were so defective they could lead to injuries, even death. According to Grant, Everlast was also responsible for a whispering campaign that suggested he was the illegitimate son of a Nevada boxing promoter and that he was known to steal Everlast gloves out of dressing rooms so that boxers would have to fight wearing Grant gloves. Some months later the suit would be settled, with Everlast paying an unspecified amount of money.
Much of the reason that Everlast was out of step with the contemporary boxing scene was that its leadership was aging. After David Golomb died at the age of 74 in 1995, 80-year-old Nadorf bought the remaining half of the business. In the late 1990s, a number of large companies approached him about acquiring Everlast. Because he was concerned that the company might be broken up, and he wanted someone with a genuine passion for boxing and truly understood the Everlast brand, he turned to Horowitz, who was excited about the possibility of buying the company. In the fall of 2000, the two parties reached an agreement on a $60 million cash and stock deal. Active Apparel changed its name to Everlast Worldwide, with Horowitz serving as chairman and chief executive and Nadorf holding the title of president of the Everlast Sporting goods division.
Horowitz was quick to initiate changes, foremost of which was to restore Everlast's reputation in the boxing world. He replaced 1950s-era sewing machines with new models and computerized the ordering and inventory systems. He also hired consultants to help redesign Everlast equipment. Well-known trainer Teddy Atlas served as the connection to the fighters, trying out new equipment and offering suggestions to the Everlast designers. Horowitz also hired a noted hand surgeon, Dr. Charles Melone, to help in the design of gloves, making sure they conformed to the hand and offered proper protection. Atlas, in turn, made sure the gloves felt right from the boxer's point of view. Horowitz became a frequent visitor to major fights, bringing along Everlast factory workers as well. Boxers were also invited to visit the Everlast offices and factories. Well-known boxers Sugar Ray Leonard and Shane Mosley were hired as spokesmen for Everlast. Moreover, the company became heavily involved in grass roots efforts and gave away boxing equipment around the world.
Horowitz brought licensing in-house, which prompted a lawsuit in December 2000 from the company's former agent, Joan Hanson & Co., alleging breach of contract. To run the licensing operation he hired Hal Worsham, who had considerable experience with Converse, where he headed international licensing. Worsham had also been involved in marketing at BF Goodrich Dunlop, Fisher-Price, and Hanna-Barbera. In order to support licensees and the introduction of new products, Horowitz stepped up the company's marketing efforts, from developing new packaging to engaging in advertising for the first time in many years. He forged sponsorship deals with major boxing broadcasters HBO and ESPN so that the Everlast logo would be prominently displayed on mat rings and corner posts. He was also keen to take advantage of product placement opportunities. The 2001 film Ali, which was based on the career of famed boxer Muhammad Ali, featured the Everlast logo throughout, and although the producers needed Everlast in order to maintain period accuracy and were prepared to pay for period Everlast equipment, Horowitz willingly donated the items. The result was in many ways a two-hour Everlast commercial and a rare case in which a movie's product placement was fully justified by the story.
Horowitz viewed the Everlast brand as a "sleeping giant," and there was no doubt that the label was nothing less than an American icon. Despite a lack of enthusiasm from Wall Street, which bid down the company's stock by a third over the course of the first 15 months, there was every reason to believe that with Horowitz's unbridled enthusiasm for Everlast, the label's high recognition factor, and untapped international licensing opportunities, the "Choice of Champions" was positioned to enjoy even greater success in the years to come.
Principal Subsidiaries: Active Apparel New Corp.; Everlast Sports Manufacturing Corp.; Everlast Fitness Manufacturing Corp.; American Fitness Products, Inc.
Principal Competitors: Bollinger; Grant; NIKE, Inc.; Reebok International Ltd.; Reyes Holdings, Inc.