A top manager and sailor for Henri-Lloyd. Will it be the right time?

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Knut Frostad - New Executive Chairman of Henri-Lloyd
Knut Frostad – New Executive Chairman of Henri-Lloyd

Henri-Lloyd is poised to return a benchmark in the sailing apparel world with the appointment of Knut Frostad as Executive Chairman. The sailor, a 56-year-old Norwegian and still board director of Monte Rosa Sports (the Swiss-Norwegian parent company of Odlo and Henri-Lloyd) will join current CEO Graham Allen in the new role starting March 1, 2024.

From the “paninari” to the new 2022 ownership. Going through the America’s Cup

Henri Lloyd is an icon of nautical clothing, a historic brand founded in Manchester, England, in 1963 by former Polish soldier (naturalized British) Henri Strzelecki along with Angus Lloyd. From the union of “Mr. Henri,” as Strzelecki was known since people had a hard time pronouncing his last name (and who could blame them) and “Mr. Lloyd” came one of the world’s best-known names in sailing apparel. Over the years, the brand has come to own more than 40 stores in the United Kingdom, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, including Italy, where in the 1980s Henri Lloyd’s Consort Jacket was part of the Milanese “paninari” outfit, along with Timberlands and Levi’s 501s. A brand known, then, even outside the sailing world, but having pioneered many technological evolutions and fabric innovations, it was among the most valued by racers and cruisers. To give you an idea, they dressed Henri Lloyd Francis Chichester in his 1966/67 World Tour and Robin Knox-Johnston in the 1969 Golden Globe.

Some of the groundbreaking innovations with which the brand won the trust of sailors include the use of Bri-Nylon and the first anti-corrosion nylon zippers, the introduction of Velcro closures in waterproof garments, hand taping of seams as an alternative to painting, but above all the incorporation of Gore-Tex waterproofing. This amazing material, now found in 90 percent of self-respecting waterproof jackets and outdoor garments, was tested for more than 22,000 hours at sea by Henri-Lloyd before it was first marketed worldwide in 1994.

Ineos Britannia - Henry Lloyd - Smock
The first Henri-Lloyd garment we saw Ineos Team Britannia wearing during the America’s Cup preliminary races is a spray-top with taped seams and AquaGuard waterproof zippers. Both the cuffs and the waist and collar are adjustable to adapt the fit of the garment to the wearer.

In this context, there has never been a lack ofcommitment alongside the highest level of sports sailing, with the partnership that binds Henri-Lloyd and Ineos Britannia since 2018 and will also bind them for the next America’s Cup campaign in Barcelona 2024. In addition to the role of Performance Clothing Partner in the America’s Cup, there is also the collaboration with the Emirates Great Britain Team within the Sail GP international racing circuit, from which Sir Ben Ainslie (now serving as CEO of both teams) has also passed.

The past few years have not been easy, with the company even going into receivership in 2019 after a period of crisis due to the management of the company’s various stores. Rescuing it from the situation was the Swedish Aligro group led by Magnus Liljeblad, which had already purchased some rights to the brand the previous March. Then in July 2022 there is another breakthrough, with the transition to Monte Rosa Sports Group, a holding company with offices in Switzerland and Norway that also owns the Swiss brand Odlo International AG (founded in 1946 and now a major player in sports underwear) and sportswear manufacturer Janus, active since 1895 in Norway. The change in ownership has brought Henri-Lloyd back to investing in research and development to return to offering sailors the highest quality, attractively designed clothing.

An experienced sailing super manager to lead the brand

The appointment of Knut Frostad as Executive Chairman represents a new chapter for the Henri-Lloyd brand. His figure is well known in the sailing world, suffice it to say that he has a very long career between sailing (including oceanic) and windsurd to his credit, with two Olympic campaigns in 1988 and 1992, world championships and four Volvo Ocean Races, two of them as skipper. His management background later led him to leadership roles in numerous companies, including the Volvo Ocean Race where he was CEO for several years.

In 2019, Knut Frostad, former executive vice president of digital business and marketing, becomes president and CEO of the Navico Group. Under his leadership, the brand has introduced several innovations to simplify the use of tools that are extremely powerful but sometimes too complicated to be easy for non-“nerds” to interpret. Integration and connectivity have been the two guidelines of product development at Navico under his leadership. Not to mention sustainability, a topic dear to Frostad’s heart since his time in the Volvo Ocean Race.

His new role within Henri-Lloyd will result in Knut dividing his time between Manchester (British brand headquarters) Zug (Monte Rosa Sports headquarters in Switzerland) and Alicante, where he lives with his family. His work will focus on sales and financial aspects of the Henri-Lloyd brand, but Frostad will still retain his position on the board of Monte Rosa Sports. We expect that the leadership of a manager as knowledgeable about both sailing and business management as Knut Frostad can only be good for Henri-Lloyd’s rise as one of the leading brands in sailing apparel, and beyond.

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