There was some uncertainty in the Dutch sports market in the last few days about the fate of Rucanor, the country's most established general sporting goods brand, after a related company was declared bankrupt by a court in The Hague. Subsequent investigation has allowed us to clear up the situation to some extent.
The bankruptcy relates to Sport Services Europe, an entity that employed 49 people. It leases the head office building for Rucanor in Nieuwekerk aan de Ijssel and its warehouse in Moerdijk, and owns some of its subsidiaries. Until recently it also had the rights to the Rucanor trademark, which was established in 1956 by Jacob van Rijswijk, but they were sold to a separate holding company, for fiscal purposes.
Since 2009, Sport Services Europe has been owned by Martijn Nelissen, a former executive of Accell Group, together with financial partners, in connection with their takeover of Rucanor Europe. Cees van Rijswijk, the son of Rucanor's founder, retained a minority stake in the new company.
The lawyer appointed by the court as receiver for the company, Jan Dorrepaal from Wille Donker, was holding talks with Nelissen and financial partners this week to try and get Sport Services Europe restructured. The bankruptcy would help the company to exit costly long-term contracts that could not be renegotiated, and to start again with a healthier structure. As part of the bankruptcy, all 49 employees of Sport Services Europe have lost their jobs, but Nelissen said that 26 of them should be able to continue under the new set-up.
Dorrepaal said that the proceedings had nothing do with Brand Innovators in Sports & Shoes (BISS), a holding company for several Dutch distribution units set up by Nelissen and Van Rijswijk in 2011 for three labels that were previously distributed by Rucanor Europe and others for which BISS acquired distribution rights.
The three brands that were already related to Rucanor are Snauwaert, the racket sports brand; Hi-Point, a low-priced tennis label used mostly for German supermarkets; and Maupiti, a brand of high-end sports-inspired footwear. Then, the owners of Rucanor Europe struck a deal to take over from Eurolight the Dutch and Belgian distribution rights for Head, Reusch, Level, Drake and Northwave, which are handled by a business unit called Sumwin. YepYep, an apparel brand, was added at the start of last year.
The receiver said that Rucanor's sales reached about €13 million in 2012. The company's turnover has been shrinking in the last years as it decided to pull out of all seasonal businesses and to focus only on its never-out-of-stock program, providing retailers with a range of basic sports products that are permanently replenished. Nelissen said that this part of the business was growing at double-digit rates and that he had started to extend it to online retailers.