Head – Ski & Rackets reinvented

Head is one of the most used and known brand in Tennis and Skiing. Many people use their products, tennis rackets, tennis balls or skis, but not many of them know the interesting history of the company. Head, the company which reinvented Skis and Tennis rackets, thanks to its founder Howard Head. You will see your Head tennis racket in a different light after you will know all the history of it.

Hard Start

Head company was established by Howard Head in 1950, just three years after Howard Head started to design his first metal ski. Mr. Head was the engineer working for aircraft manufacturer Glenn L. Martin company. After his first skiing, he blamed his equipment of his bad skiing style. Long and heavy wooden skis were hard to manage on the slopes. Skier in the first half of last century has to have good fitness and lot of training hours. Skiing was far from a mass hobby.

Howard Head, thanks to his engineering skills, started to experiment and tried to replace the wood with metal. He wished for lighter and more efficient skis, which will help also beginners to ski efficiently and without fear of falls and injuries. He started to design new skis in 1947 and after many fails and manufacturing forty different designs, he came to the successful end in 1950. During that time, in 1948, he resigned from his work at Glenn L. Martin to fully devote his time to ski development. He developed composite skis, made of two layers of aluminum joined by glue at the start (later the wooden middle part was added).

In 1950, he finally started to sell Head „Standard“ Skis. Metal skis with wooden core had almost the same weight like original wooden skis. But they were not just for skilled athletes but also for beginners. Even starting skier had better control on his skis. Professional nicknamed people using Head Skis as „cheaters“. It did not take long to change.

1960 Olympics and Head Skis Breakthrough

Head Ski Company was incorporated in the same year as the Standard Skis were introduced. Full success of new Skis came later on after 1960 Winter Olympics Games in Squaw Valley, California, USA. The most difficult alpine skiing courses in Olympic History (according to book The Winter Olympics written by Judd, Ron C.) brought the first winner on metal skis. French Jean Vuarnet has changed sporting history with his men’s downhill win. Alpine Skiing has never come back to wooden skis and the place in history for Howard Head was secured.

1969 – Tennis racket revolution

Howard Head always put emphasis on innovation. In 1969 he introduced the first fiberglass/metal ski and that year he left his first important fingertip also in tennis.

Howard Head was able to repeat his successful story also in tennis equipment. What is most surprising the start of his tennis journey is more than similar to his skiing story. Head, an enthusiastic but not very good player, blamed his losses on equipment again. And he did not stop with complaints but started to design new and better racket. He replaced the wood with metal. And his metal racket was an enormous success.

Howard Head is leaving Head

However, the year 1969 was not just a year of inventions, but also the year when Howard Head was forced to sell his stake in Head Company. AMF Corporation, a New York sporting goods company bought the Head for 16 million USD and Howard Head cash out 4.5 million USD.

Howard Head left the Head company, but he did not leave the sporting goods business.

He bought Prince Manufacturing Co., a producer of tennis ball machines (read more about tennis ball machines). He transformed Prince into major tennis manufacturer and one of the global powerhouses in tennis sports.

Head without Head

In the year 1970, Head acquired Tyrolia, an Austrian maker of Ski Bindings, and Mares, an Italian manufacturer of scuba gear. New acquisition meant that Head has five strong divisions: Head Skis, Head Tennis, Tyrolia Ski Bindings, Mares scuba gear and Head Innovations.

In March 1989, senior management with help of financial investors bought out the company, but just 4 years later the company was sold to state-owned Austria Tabak. Austria Tabak tried to diversify its revenues and tried to take control of local ski manufacturers. However, in 1995 due to financial problems, Head was sold to Swedish entrepreneur Johan Eliasch.

But even Eliasch was not able to ward off restructuralisation due to high indebtedness. In the year 2000, Head made a successful IPO, but in 2017 company was taken private again.

Still innovating

Even during years full of financial problems, Head did not stop innovating. Head was one of the first companies which started to produce carved skis and also titanium and graphite rackets. Both of these are now industry standards. That is proved by a long list of skiing and tennis professionals using their Skis and Rackets.

Company page: www.head.com
More about Howard Head and financial history of Head NV: 
http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/head-n-v-history/

Posted in BLOG.

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  1. Pingback: Head Skis - Ski Pro Guru

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