Ten years later, still going strong

How Altor helped Helly Hansen improve product offerings and overall operations.

Helly Hansen was Altor’s first investment in the Consumer sector. A company part of the Norwegian heritage. During our nine years of partnership, the brand reconnected with its roots, the product portfolio improving every season and the operation developed a world class apparel company.

Peter Sjölander, previous CEO of Helly Hansen

“We rebuilt the Helly Hansen to become one of the world’s leading outdoor brands. When Private Equity is done right – everybody wins.”

Altor acquired Helly Hansen in late 2006. Peter Sjölander was hired as CEO in 2007, Peter having 15 formative years at Nike stayed with the company for a few years after Altor exited Helly Hansen in 2012 – and Peter is now, since ten years, a Senior Adviser to Altor.

Peter walks us through the journey with Helly Hansen:

“At the time of Altor’s acquisition, Helly Hansen had been loss-making since the early 2000’s. The company had three divisions, Sport, Workwear and Survival. The ambition was clear: to grow the Survival business whilst making the business less capital intense and in 2010 it would be spun off to a new owner that focused on the same sector, having similar core competences.

Meanwhile we shaped up both Sports and Workwear among others separating all channels and changing to two different logos. This allowed the two divisions to solely focus on their respective customers without any negative overlap. Most back-end functions were shared or semi-shared, but all front-end activities were clearly separated. In 2009, we moved our office from Moss to Oslo which still serves as its global HQ. When Altor sold Helly Hansen in 2012 we had people representing more than 20 nationalities working out of the Oslo global HQ. Some having CV’s including global powerhouses, like Nike and Adidas.

During Fall of 2007 much of the fundamentals of the future strategy were drawn up and agreed. A rigorous seasonal “critical path” process was put in place that ensured the best marriage of optimizing the global business while not ignoring the need to act locally. This process and the introduction of an architecture that allowed the company to build a reinvigorated brand that created products that resonated with consumers made sure that the company stopped running a relay race where blind spots occurred during each baton pass and instead operated as a true team constantly interacting to move the business forward in a controlled and profitable manner.

Helly Hansen had a dormant reputation of quality and functionality that had to a large extent been eradicated during the many years of a self-inflicted loss of confidence. As we looked to rebuild our brand we decided to base our future on what had been historical legacy strengths. Under the mantra of “CONFIDENCE WHEN IT MATTERS” a completely new and bold brand platform was established. Underpinning this was the idea that we should build product that people needed to enjoy the outdoors or do their jobs, but also product that people truly wanted!

The business grew double digit CAGR’s from 2007 through to when Altor sold the business in 2012. Some five years after it acquired Helly Hansen, it was not only a much bigger and profitable business, but one that was rigged for continued growth. The Sports side of the business has since become one of the bigger premium global Outdoor brands in the world and the Workwear business is now well clear of a billion NOK in revenue and recognized as perhaps “the” premium workwear brand. The company conducted business in more than 50 countries around the world when Altor sold the company.

The business continues to do very well some 10 years after Altor passed it on to new ownership. Today the sales are four times what it was at the time and the brand continues to be leading in its category.”

Published: Aug 12 2022


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