Rechner named as future Swiss Army Brands president

Susanne Rechner has been tapped by Victorinox A.G. to be president of Swiss Army Brands Inc. (SABI), distributor of Swiss Army Brand watches, if Victorinox’s offer to buy SABI’s outstanding shares is successful.

Rechner—who led the successful U.S. re-launch of Swiss Army watches—is SABI’s senior vice president-global watch, and chief executive officer of Victorinox Swiss Army Watch SA (VSA), a joint venture of the two firms. VSA is the international marketer and distributor of Swiss Army and Victorinox watches and clocks. Rechner would continue as CEO of VSA.

Charles Elsener Jr., president of Victorinox, said that he and his father (who is chairman of Victorinox) are “delighted at the prospect of Ms. Rechner guiding Swiss Army into the future. We have watched her re-launch Swiss Army’s domestic watch business and develop VSA from a concept into a going concern. We have been tremendously impressed with her vision and drive, and her ability to make things happen.”

Rechner joined SABI, located in Shelton, Conn., as senior vice president-retail division in 2000. Previously, she was a vice president at the Movado Group Inc., and earlier worked at Seiko Corporation of America.

Announcement of Rechner’s pending appointment came July 29, the same day SABI’s two top executives—chairman Peter W. Gilson and president A. Jeffrey Turner, responsible for SABI’s successful brand extension and licensing program and introduction of numerous new products—said they’ll will resign and sell their SABI shares to Victorinox AG.

Victorinox A.G., a privately-held Swiss company in Ibach, Switzerland, already owns 67% of SABI, which distributes Victorinox products.

On June 12, Victorinox made a proposal to SABI to acquire for $9 per share all outstanding shares of common stock not already held by Victorinox and its affiliates. The buyout would total $24.9 million.

Shareholders have until mid-August to decide whether to sell. (Some shareholders have filed lawsuits in Delaware, contending the $9 offer is too low.) For the offer to succeed, Victorinox must acquire at least 90% of the company, including the 67% it already owns. If that happens, say published reports, Swiss Army would be merged with SABI Acquisition Corp., a Delaware-based, wholly-owned subsidiary of Victorinox.

Swiss Army Brands Inc. is the exclusive United States, Canadian, and Caribbean marketer of Swiss Army Brand watches, sunglasses, and writing instruments, and the Victorinox Original Swiss Army Knife. It also distributes Bear MGC knives and multi-tools as well as cutlery under the R.H. Forschner brand, and licenses the Victorinox crest and trademark for travel gear and apparel. The company’s products are distributed to more than 3,800 retailers and wholesalers. It has a flagship store in New York City’s SoHo district and maintains a company Web site at www.swissarmy.com.