How Pentland Group Became One of the U.K.’s Most Powerful Shoe Businesses

Under Stephen Rubin, Pentland Group transformed from a small wholesale business founded in 1932 by his parents, Berko and Minnie, into a major global player. Stephen put the company on the map in a big way when he acquired a majority stake in Reebok for $77,500.

He sold off the stake a decade later for $770 million and went on to assemble a portfolio of top owned and licensed brands, including Hunter, Kickers, Lacoste, Speedo and SeaVees. Now the third and fourth generations, including Stephen’s children, Andy and Carrie, are helping lead the London-based firm, which also owns a majority stake in U.K. retail chain JD Sports.

Andy, who serves as chairman of the brand management division, said family companies like Pentland have a unique dynamic. “It’s much more than business because it’s a family business,” he explained. “It
carries on around the dinner table. That means there is emotion in every decision. But we get to spend a lot of time together, agreeing on long-term objectives and deciding how to get there.”

FN's 2016 London Cocktail Party
Andy Rubin, Ron Fromm, Angela Rubin, Stephen Rubin and Carrie Rubin
CREDIT: James Mason.

Still, sharing the same last name isn’t an automatic entrée into the company. New family members are encouraged to get the best education they can and spend some time working elsewhere first. Once they join, Rubin said, they must work hard and stay humble. “You’ll rise up if you are good enough.”

At FN’s summit in Miami last month, Rubin talked about the company’s mission to foster employee culture. It offers a number of amenities at its suburban campus, as well as community-building activities.

“You have a DJ in the gym — that’s what you do now.” And outside of the office, he said, shoe companies are also tasked with creating retail theater, developing product that tells a story and communicating a larger purpose in the world. Those efforts can not only help fuel the bottom line but will engage and inspire employees. “Nobody wants to come to work just to create shareholder value,” Rubin said.

Andy Rubin
Pentland CEO Andy Rubin speaks at the FN CEO Summit in Miami, Florida on May 25, 207.
CREDIT: Patrick MacLeod
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