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Vancouver-based SAXX appoints Tom Berry as new CEO

Underwear company had previously been led by Wendy Bennison
SAXX chief executive Tom Berry comes to the underwear company after heading ECCO's operations in the Americas

A leadership transition is underway at Vancouver-based underwear manufacturer SAXX, where Tom Berry is the new CEO and former CEO Wendy Bennison is staying with the company in an advisory capacity until April, when she is set to join the company’s board of directors.

Berry is an experienced retail executive who until September was based in Portland as the CEO of the Americas for the Danish footwear brand ECCO.

He told BIV that when he left ECCO he was "aware that there was an opportunity at SAXX," but that he had not yet been officially hired.

He said he was convinced to take the job because he was impressed with the team at SAXX, its products and its majority owner, the private-equity firm TZP Group, which also owns Christy Sports, the cycling apparel company Assos Switzerland and Xero Shoes.

Berry has also held extensive roles at retail brands such as Levi Strauss & Co., Tecnica, Salomon and The North Face. He has led brand transformations, grown companies, launched products and expanded retail brands into new geographies.

He said his plan for SAXX is for "strong growth," although he would not pin down exactly how much he aims to expand the company's number of distribution points or its revenue.

The 120-employee company is profitable but Berry said it does not disclose its annual revenue.

The company's products are sold in 5,800 physical locations through wholesale partnerships. No stand-alone SAXX stores are planned but Berry said that he would not rule that out in the future.

Far more likely is that the company will open shop-in-shops, or kiosks, within stores, such as Macy's (NYSE:M).

The company is known for its patented BallPark Pouch technology that it describes as being like a 3D hammock-shaped compartment that is built into every pair of its underwear.

It can get litigious if others infringe on the technology.

SAXX earlier this year reached a settlement with Stateside Merchants over that company's Pair of Thieves and Hustle underwear designs.

SAXX had filed a lawsuit in Canada alleging that California's Stateside Merchants had breached the patents. SAXX told BIV in an email in July that it settled the lawsuit and that Stateside Merchants would donate $2,500 on behalf of SAXX to the Testicular Cancer Foundation, which is based in Texas. 

While SAXX has shirts and other attire, it is known for its underwear, which is the source for most of its revenue.

"Men are probably 20 years behind women in recognizing the need to take care of themselves, and what something like a great pair of underwear can do for you," he said.

"It's the first garment you put on in the morning. It's your most personal piece of apparel, but, frankly, I think most men have long neglected it."

Berry would not reveal data for what percentage of SAXX's sales are for underwear, what percentage of sales are in Canada versus the U.S. or even what percentage of sales come from e-commerce.

“With Tom at the helm and the continued dedication of our team and retail partners, we are heading into an exciting future as we reach more men with innovative, technical and life-changing products,” said Dan Galpern, who chairs SAXX’s board and is a partner at TZP Group.

TZP Group first invested in SAXX in August 2021, through TZP Capital Partners III, L.P.

NLS Group Holdings Inc., led by Krystal Growth Partners, which invested in SAXX in April 2010, retained a significant minority interest in SAXX.

As part of the transaction, Brentwood Associates, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm that invested in SAXX in December 2016, sold its shares.

Bennison’s experience before becoming CEO of SAXX in 2017 was as president at Kit and Ace, president at Roots and chief operating officer at Mark’s.

“Wendy's remarkable achievements, including overseeing a period of significant growth and expansion, will leave a lasting mark on SAXX's success, and we look forward to welcoming her onto the SAXX board,” Galpern said.

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