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Columbia Sportswear family to celebrate Ma Boyle’s life

The family of Gert Boyle, former chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear Company, will host a Celebration of Life in her honour on December 5, 2019.

The event will be held at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, US, and will be attended by family, friends and employees of Columbia Sportswear Company.

Ms Boyle, who died at the start of November, aged 95, took over the running of the company in 1970 after the sudden death of her husband. She found herself in charge of a debt-ridden company that was making less than $800,000 a year in sales. 

“Beginning in the mid-1970s, we reinvented ourselves,” she said in her autobiography. “You can't be all things to all people. We stopped private labelling, focused on typical outdoor clothing, and started to go to larger suppliers.” 

The introduction of the Bugaboo – a ski jacket with removable lining – put the company on the map. Columbia has now sold in excess of six million of them. It also claims to be one of the first to incorporate Gore-Tex into its jackets.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a shrewd idea from a local advertising agency made Gert a household name. Styling her as the tough ‘Ma Boyle’, who tests Columbia gear on her ‘hapless’ son – including running over him with a snow plough and pushing him through a car wash to test waterproof jackets – the adverts had the right mix of humour, originality and family values to appeal to consumers. 

By the time 1990s came around, the company was in good shape, and by the end of the decade when the company went public – leaving the family with around 60% – sales were reaching $353.5 million. However, taking on outside investment brought another set of considerations – shareholders need to monitor the financials and the governance and financial structure needed to be changed – so Gert stepped down as CEO in 1998, passing the reigns to her son. She stayed on as chairwoman, a role she held until her death.

Columbia Sportswear posted revenues of almost $2.1 billion for the first nine months of 2019. 




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