Outdoor Voices Sold to Consortium Brand Partners

Outdoor Voices, the troubled activewear brand started by Tyler Haney in 2013, has a new owner.

The once high-flying brand has been sold to Consortium Brand Partners, a consumer-focused investment manager. This marks CBP’s second acquisition, following its purchase of a majority stake in Reese Witherspoon’s fashion and lifestyle brand Draper James in September 2023.

The price paid for Outdoor Voices wasn’t revealed.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to become the next stewards of this very special brand,” said Cory M. Baker, founder and managing partner of Consortium Brand Partners, who runs the company with Jonathan Greller and Michael DeVirgilio.

Cory M. Baker

Cory M. Baker

Courtesy of Consortium Brand Partners

“Tyler’s [Haney] vision to build Outdoor Voices on a foundation of deep human connection and a genuine love for movement created something truly beautiful and unique in Outdoor Voices. We are committed to engaging the brand’s loyal community to ensure they can continue to enjoy products and experiences that celebrate the recreationalist and outdoor enthusiast,” Baker said.

Over the years, Outdoor Voices has faced numerous financial challenges, internal management rifts, excess inventory in off-price channels, cash flow issues, a revolving door of executives and, most recently, store closings. In March, Outdoor Voices’ 16 remaining stores in cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis, Scottsdale, Ariz., Denver and Atlanta abruptly closed. Outdoor Voices had reportedly stopped paying a number of its vendors and neglected to pay rent on some of its stores for months, according to published reports.

Once a direct-to-consumer darling, Outdoor Voices established a strong Millennial following for its colorful leggings and tops and its exercise dress with shorts underneath. It also created a popular social media presence, with its hashtag, #DoingThings, where customers would share images of themselves enjoying athletic activities such as yoga or running. The company frequently hosted events such as group exercise classes. In 2018, the brand was valued at $100 million, but that dropped to $40 million in 2020.

Haney abruptly resigned from the company in February 2020, and Mickey Drexler, an investor and chairman since 2017, stepped down the following July. The two reportedly clashed on management styles, among other issues. Haney was replaced as chief executive officer on an interim basis by Cliff Moskowitz, the former president of InterLuxe, a New York investment firm. Haney returned to Outdoor Voices in June 2020 when the company received funding from NaHC03, the investment management company run by sleepwear brand Lunya founder and CEO Ashley Merrill, who became the new chairman. Haney then took an active role as one of the company’s board members. Merrill took on the role of interim CEO last fall, succeeding CEO Gabrielle Conforti, who joined Outdoor Voices in February 2021.

Haney is no longer involved in the business, nor is Merrill.

According to Baker, for the past three years the company was largely financed by existing investors who had put in more money and taken on more debt. “That often leads to a problem situation when you’ve got a company, which has a very strong brand and a very strong business and a very loyal consumer, but if you have extensive leases that unfortunately were signed in the wrong way in the wrong place at the wrong time, it becomes a drain on the business,” Baker said.

“You can have the most loyal customers and the greatest product in the world, but if your expenses and your debt load are too difficult to service, that becomes where everyone starts focusing. I think that led to a lot of the challenges in recent years,” he said.

Baker said a banker reached out to his company to help Outdoor Voices restructure. “I’ve been a fan and I’ve been a customer for years, and I think what Tyler created was really something very special. She focused very smartly on creating products for a community of people who were not focused on being first to cross the finish line in a marathon or having the best time on their bike. It was people who just wanted to get out there and be part of a group and run with friends. It led to creating great product for people who live that, and that’s what we want to get back to. That’s what’s exciting to us,” Baker said.

Outdoor Voices

Some looks from Outdoor Voices.

Courtesy of Outdoor Voices

He said there’s a loyal customer, “but frankly when companies often find themselves in difficult financial times, the first thing that goes by the wayside is product and marketing. Today Outdoor Voices is the healthiest it has ever been in its entire life, and it allows us the luxury to refocus on the things that matter,” Baker said.

Sources indicated that Consortium may be talking with companies such as David Peyser Sportswear to manufacture some of the products. Baker declined to comment.

“We’re very focused on having strategic partners who have the ability to scale and the experience of making great product, with the best margins with the greatest distribution,” he said. He said sometimes brands often assume they can make everything from swim to intimates to outerwear to activewear. “Very often the best product will be made by industry experts,” Baker said.

Baker said they plan to reenter wholesale distribution, as well. “There are a lot of interested retailers who are excited that the company is in good hands,” Baker said.

As for what attracted Consortium to Outdoor Voices, Baker said, “If you find a red thread in everything we do it’s always about a brand with a very strong and loyal customer base. That is the magnet that draws us in every single time. We’re not interested in chasing trends, we’re not interested in trying to capture lightning in a bottle. What we get really excited about is buying brands where the customer is just obsessed with the product and just obsessed with the story.”

He equated Consortium’s experience with Draper James to what he’d like to do with Outdoor Voices.

“Draper James is a brand that is so much bigger than the business, and the customer is hungry for more categories. They have expanded international opportunities, rolling out seven or eight new product categories that will start coming out at the end of this year and next year. The next 12 to 18 months is really exciting for Draper, and we expect to do the same thing with Outdoor Voices,” Baker said.

He looks forward to reengaging the Outdoor Voices customer and building a business again.

Today the direct-to-consumer brand is headed by Katie Siano, president, who was the number two under Merrill. There is no CEO.

Jonathan Greller, president and cofounder of Consortium Brand Partners, added, “The Outdoor Voices narrative resonates with many. It’s a successful brand with a passionate and dedicated consumer who wears and loves the product, but it’s a brand that faced challenges within its business framework. As of today, Outdoor Voices is the healthiest it’s ever been, and we have already begun positioning it for continued growth domestically and internationally, spanning its core offerings and new categories that authentically embody its brand ethos.”

Jonathan Greller

Jonathan Greller

Consortium Brand Partners

The existing team of about 20 people will continue to work for the brand, said Baker, adding that a design team is in place.

Greller said Outdoor Voices could become a license or brand of a larger company. “We would be focused on the brand management and building out the community, and a licensee would be focused on design, sourcing and distribution.” He said hopefully within a few weeks, they will name that company.

Among the categories they look to add are footwear, sleepwear, bath and bedding, swim, tech accessories and kids. Some of these categories they’ve dabbled in. “We will look for expert partners to work on this as well,” he said.

Greller said they are looking for an operating licensed partner to potentially reopen stores. “We believe brick-and-mortar is very important to the brand and the ecosystem because customers want to show up where and when we can meet them,” he said. He said they may reopen stores in existing locations or new ones. If a former retail space is still available and was a good space, they might consider reopening in that site.

Outdoor Voices, which had been operating out of Austin, Texas, will now operate out of New York, although there is no showroom or headquarters right now, Baker said. Products are manufactured in Asia.

Michael DeVirgilio

Michael DeVirgilio

Courtesy of Consortium Brand Partners

As for how they will rectify the problems the company faced over the years, Greller said they plan to put money on the balance sheet to continue to invest in product and marketing.

“When companies struggle and are faced with challenges within their business framework, the first place they cut back on is the customer, which includes product and marketing. We plan to invest in marketing and product and to ensure that every dollar that we are spending is spent on the customer. We’re a company that is really about building sustainable growth and being profitable.”

He said Outdoor Voices has done community events and sponsorships around running races and has done yoga classes in different cities. “We plan to amplify that. It [Outdoor Voices] has that dedicated and passionate consumer who loves this product and within the right business framework, there’s a lot of opportunity here,” Greller said.

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