Thursday, July 17, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nautilus hires Levi Strauss exec to pump up its profits and sales

Seattle Times Eastside business reporter

The Nautilus Group, the maker of the Stairmaster and other health and fitness equipment, hired Gregg Hammann yesterday as chief executive officer and president.

Hammann replaces Brian Cook, effective immediately. Cook will continue as chairman of the Vancouver, Wash.-based company.

"It's very positive news," Cook said. "We've built a very strong foundation, and now we have to maximize our brands and move forward. Gregg's expertise and background will help us execute our strategy quicker."

Cook said he was not forced out. He and the board initiated the search for his replacement several months ago, he said.

Before joining Nautilus, Hammann, 40, was chief customer officer of North America and president of Latin America for Levi Strauss, where he led an initiative to expand the company's brand and distribution. He had worked in sales, marketing and general management with Coca-Cola, McLeod USA and Procter and Gamble.

Cook, 53, was CEO of Nautilus for 17 years and held a variety of managerial and financial positions at Sea Galley Stores, a now-closed restaurant company, before joining the fitness-equipment maker.

Analysts said the management change was welcome.

"It's the right time for a new leader to take over," said R.J. Jones, a senior equity analyst with Delafield Hambrecht in Seattle. "They've missed the last three quarters and it's been one series of disappointments after another. They experienced substantial growth over time, but the reliance on one product line has come full circle for them."

Nautilus has slashed its profit forecasts for three straight quarters and earlier this month said its second-quarter and annual profits will fall short of analysts' expectations. The company, whose brands include Bowflex, Schwinn, Nautilus and Stairmaster, will report second-quarter earnings July 30.

Flagging sales and profit have forced Nautilus, whose growth has centered on its Bowflex machine, to introduce new products and sell them in retail stores instead of through direct sales.

Hammann said he will look at how best to leverage the company's brands and will execute the company's strategy more aggressively.

"Every company hits a bump in the road, and so has Nautilus," Hammann said. "But I think the outlook will be positive."

Kristina Shevory: 206-464-2039 or

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company


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