Head is asking its shareholders to vote at their general assembly in May for Günter Hagspiel as the new chief financial officer of the company. Hagspiel, who is currently controller of the group, has been with Head since 1996 in various positions, including the management of its U.S. operations. Hagspiel will replace Ralf Bernhart, a long-time Head executive, but Bernhart is set to become deputy chief executive of the group, still working closely with Johan Eliasch, the CEO.

Additionally, as of March 2009, Klaus Hotter, the executive vice president in charge of the ski division, will additionally to his current functions take over the management of the production of ski boots as well as bindings from Edgar Pöllmann. The ski bindings are now Head-branded, but they continue to be named Tyrolia for third-party customers.

Jeremy Sherwood has been promoted global marketing and sales director, expanding his position as director of group sales, while Rick Lalonde, now the boss of Head’s operations in Canada, has been given responsibility for all of North America as far as snow sports are concerned.

Effective March 2009, Head will also shut down its production of tennis balls in Phoenix, Arizona, where Penn had its global headquarters prior to its acquisition by Head. All the balls will now be manufactured at the Chinese factory opened by Head in January 2007. As reported, Head has dropped the Penn brand for all major markets other than North America where Penn is still particularly strong.

Finally Head has confirmed its sponsorship of Novak Ðokovic, the big Serbian tennis player who is now number three in the ATP Tour behind Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland. It is heard, but not confirmed yet, that Ðokovic or his family will take over the distribution of Head tennis products for various countries in the Balkans. None of the Head executives available was ready to comment, but a former executive of the same company said that, yes, an agreement of that type was on its way. The current distributor of Head in Serbia is Dominus, a company run by Zoran Kojic.

Serbia is a challenging place to sell sporting goods, as shown in the market research that we delivered on this and other Balkan countries last year, but tennis is an exception. This is due to the fact that this small country now has at least three super-stars. The other two, this time on the female side of the sport, are Jelena Jankovic (supported by Prince) and Ana Ivanovic (partner of Yonex). Obviously, tennis is a sport that depends much more than any other on well-known ambassadors to promote the activity in a particular country, as has been the case recently also in Russia or Spain.

Head which was number two in the Serbian market for racquets, sold between 4,000 and 5,000 units in 2007, before Ðokovic's latest victories. The market leader is Wilson, which is represented by Beosport, a mighty distributor in the region that also markets the products of Atomic, Crocs, Mammut Sports Group and others. The size of the Serbian market for tennis racquets is given at 15,000 units or so, and it is definitely growing.