Sharkey’s Machine

The Assent of 10 Things You didn’t know about The North Face

This was predominately an oral presentation. Below are my informal speakers notes; some of the information may have been omitted during presentation. As well, some information could have been added. I guess you just had to there.


Slide 2:

Doug Tompkins started a retail shop for high end hiking gear. San Fran altitude 150 above sea level


Slide 3:

1975 Geodesic Dome Tent Buckminster Fuller architect, inventor, engineer, EPCOT : Dissipates Stress, Hemispherical is the most efficient way to enclose space, aerodynamic shape sheds wind the best – Revolutionized back packing tent making, First to include flexible aluminum poles. Also, in 1975 first to develop shingled construction and synthetic insulation sleeping bags.


Slide 4:

The North Face logo was inspired by the Half Dome in Yosemite, revered as one of the greatest big walls in the world.


Slide 5:

World’s largest apparel company: Also own Lee, Rustler, Majestic, Eagle Creek Travel Gear, Aura, Red Kap, John Varvatos, Chef Designs, The Force, Lucy, Napapijri, Eastpack


Slide 6:

Products in 3500 Retail Locations. 30 TNF stores are in 17 states; Atlanta 35 A West Paces Ferry Road


Slide 7:

Together with JanSport, TNF sister company they manufacture nearly half of all small back packs sold in the US.


Slide 8:

Joe Flannery VP of Marketing: TNF wants to have their brand on the majority of products in your pack. This as lead to an increase focus in peripheral categories: footwear, underwear, accessories.


Slide 9:

Launched widget in November 2007 on iGoogle “Video of the Day” Give users a reason to come to the website. The widget is planning to be expanded to social networking sites. Sarah Gallagher senior manager of interactive marketing: “Social Networking is evolving into one the most dominant paradigms for how people interact online, and how content is distributed. To keep up, social networking will need to become a prime platform for us to interact with potential customers.”

The realization of this huge for me or anyone interested corporate PR with TNF. They are just coming into social media, and need people to monitor and develop strategies and profiles on sites like twitter or facebook.


Slide 10:

Showcases 20 to 30 expeditions from around the world. Daily video journal. Downloadable 2 -3 minute snippets. Filmed in HD by the athletes. This along with live streaming webcast are more cost effective. Joe Flannery VP of Marketing :“The only time it (backcountry snowboard competitions) is profitable for that to be on television is Saturday afternoons in winter at three o’clock on NBC, when anyone who is interested in snowboarding is out snowboarding.”


Slide 11:

A website was created in the winter of 2004 by a college student aggravated by purchase of a counterfeit North Face item, to educate consumers on how to shop smart, particularly online.

On March 26, 2006 an improved layout was launched with Whitelist and Blacklist sections to report the good and bad E-Bay vendors.

In August 2007, Business Week interviewed the owner and featured the site in one of their articles.


Slide 12:

Handsome Devil


Clinging to a Ledge: Crisis within TNF

The North Face underwent a tumultuous time in 1999. The company was under attack by its CEO in his attempts to take The North Face private. James Fifield and his leverage-buyout-firm, Fifield and Leonard Green and Partners, attempted to buy the controlling majority of TNF at $17 and remove the company from public trading. The buyout was denied by shareholders who felt the price per share was undervalued. Just a few days after the buy-out proposal was announced TNF disclosed that it may have misrepresented its 1997 and 1998 financial statements. The company eventually divulged that it had overstated 1998 sales by $16 million, or 6%, and earnings by $6 million, or 42%. The adjusted sales for 1998 where $247 million dollars, with $8 million in profit. The company also said that 1997 sales had been overstated by $5 million and earnings by dilated $3 million. The preponderance of accounting irregularities by TNF impelled shareholders to bring about class action lawsuits against the company claiming that it had purposely exaggerated its financial fillings in order to drive up share price.  Amongst all of the turmoil the CEO James Fifield left the company and TNF faced Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was then, that VF Corporation swopped in and acquired the fledgling outfitter. The VF Corp purchased The North Face for $24.5 million in 2000. The nation’s largest apparel provider purchased TNF at a substantial discount (90%) of its yearly sales ($240 million). The North Face would go on to post losses $100 million on $238 million in sales in 1999. However over the next few years with VF Corps influx of capital and restructuring its business functions, The North Face returned to profitability. In 2003 the company showed a 34% growth and a 61% growth in 2004 cementing itself as the cornerstone of the VF Corps outdoor lifestyle sector.

The North Face was able to overcome financial and leadership crisis by yielding to a company that had a proven track record in apparel manufacturing and distribution. The VF Corporation not only had the capital to bail out TNF, but it also had the expertise and managerial skills to reorganize the operational structure of TNF to get it back not only to sustainability but to profitability. The acquisition of TNF was somewhat opportunistic and predatory, but it has proved to be mutually beneficial to both organizations.



Boyd, K. (2008). The North Face Apparel Corp.. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from Web site:
Kapner, S. (2008, March 14). How Fashion’s VF Superchargers its Brands. Fortune, [157(7)], [108-110].

Morris, K. (1999, June 21). Egg All Over North Face. Business Week, online.

Peltz, J. Jeans Giant VF to Buy Outdoor Gear Maker. (2000, April 08). Los Angeles Times, p. C1.

On Belay! Belay On!: Career Opportunities within TNF

When mountaineering a person climbing or rappelling will shout “On Belay!” to signify that they are ready to traverse the rope; in response the belayer (anchor person) if ready will retort “Belay On!” Starting your career in PR can seem like climbing a mountain, and while you may ready to shout “On Belay!” there may not be the echo of “Belay On!” from PR arms of The North Face.


The North Face Corporate

There are four jobs currently listed on the TNF Careers page that have a strong relation to PR, corporate communication, or marketing. The jobs that are currently listed are: an eCommerce Senior Merchandising Manager, Retail Marketing Manager, Copywriter, and Merchandise Coordinator-Field. There are more jobs listed that entail some peripheral PR functions most of them are in retail  such as a product specialist, assistant store manager, or sales associate.


The VF Corporation: Parent Company to TNF

Even less communication job opportunities are available through the holding company online career page. A few human resources positions are available, and a few merchandising positions are available; but it unclear what if any interaction one would have with The North Face.

Ruder Finn, Inc.: The North Face PR Agency

Ruder Finn does not list specific job openings, in order not pigeon-hole itself into looking for certain job candidates. The agency is open to new creative individuals who can submit their resume via email at However, new college graduates can apply to Ruder Finn’s acclaimed Executive Training Program; after the four month program there is the possibility of gaining a position within the agency perhaps on The North Face account. 

The Publics

The publics of The North Face are multi-layered; here is a brief overview.

Internal Publics

The VF Corporation Board of Directors

  • Eric Wiseman Chairman, President, and CEO
  • Charles (Chip) Bergh
  • Ursula Fairbairn
  • Barbara Feigin
  • George Fellows
  • Robert Hurst Jr.
  • W. Alan McCollough
  • Clarence Otis Jr.
  • M. Rust Sharp
  • Raymond Viault
  • Juan Ernesto de Bedout

VF Corporation Executives Relevant to TNF

  • Eric Wiseman Chairman, President, and CEO
  • Robert Shearer SVP and CFO

  • Bradley Batten VP, Controller, and CAO

  • Martin Schneider VP CIO

  • Frank Pickard VP and Treasure

  • Cindy Knoebel VP Financial and Corporate Communications, VF Services

  • Ellen Rohde VP Branding Planning

  • Paul Mason Director of Corporate Communications

  • Dave Gatto President, VF Outdoor Americas

The North Face Executives

  • Dave Gatto President
  • Steve Rendle President, Americas
  • Topher Gaylord President, Outdoor International, VF Coporation
  • Dan Templin CFO
  • Joe Flannery VP, Marketing
  • Jim Gerson VP, Research, Development, and Design
  • Todd Spaletto VP, US Sales
  • Patty Pierce Directory, Human Resources
  • Michelle Barth Director, Marketing
  • Sumi Reddy Product Manager, Tekware

The North Face employs about 860 workers across the world.


External Publics

The customers of TNF are sprinkled across the outdoor activity spectrum. On one end are the hardcore adventurists that push the limits in the extreme conditions TNF gear was designed for. On the other end of the spectrum are customers who are drawn to TNF products because of emerging fashion trend of wilderness chic. The North Face products are by everybody from explorers to weekend warriors. 






Boyd, K. (2007). The North Face, Inc.. International Directory of Company Histories, 78, Retrieved October 23, 2008, from;col1

Hawker, Lizzy (2008). The North Face. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Web site:

The North Face Apparel Corp.(2008). In Hoover’s Company Records – In-depth Records (online ed.), Saint-Laurent: Hoover’s Inc.

V.F. Corporation. (2008). In Hoover’s Company Records – In-depth Records (online ed., Saint-Laurent: Hoover’s Inc. .


From High Altitude: TNF Corporate Overview
December 3, 2008, 5:26 am
Filed under: The North Face Project | Tags: , , ,

The North Face is the leader in developing innovative performance gear for outdoor enthusiast such as mountain climbers, endurance athletes, explorers, and extreme snowboarders and skiers. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1966 by two hiking enthusiast Doug Tompkins and Dick Klopp who opened a small retail location specializing in high-performance climbing and backpacking equipment. Eventually the company evolved into the production and retail powerhouse of outdoor adventure products that it is today.


The rise to supremacy in the outdoor apparel market as been just as an arduous and sinuous trek as the trails on the mountains The North Face products are designed for. The 1970’s where a time of company growth and industry leading innovation. The 1980’s where plagued missteps and corporate blunders. By the 1990’s the company was in a time of turnover and transition. At the turn of century The North Face was acquired by The VF Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and the world’s largest apparel manufacture.


Today The North Face is headquartered in San Leandro, California and employees about 860 people and garners about $238 million in sales (2005 est.). It senior management team include:


Dave Gatto: President

Steve Rendle: President, Americas

Topher Gaylord: President, Outdoor International, VF Coporation

Dan Templin: CFO

Joe Flannery: VP, Marketing 

Jim Gerson: VP, Research, Development, and Design

Todd Spaletto: VP, US Sales

Patty Pierce: Directory, Human Resources

Michelle Barth: Director, Marketing

Sumi Reddy: Product Manager, Tekware






Boyd, K. (2007). The North Face, Inc.. International Directory of Company Histories, 78, Retrieved October 23, 2008, from;col1

Hawker, Lizzy (2008). The North Face. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Web site:

The North Face, INC., (2008). Our Story. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from The North Face Web site:

The North Face Apparel Corp.(2008). In Hoover’s Company Records – In-depth Records (online ed.), Saint-Laurent: Hoover’s Inc.