This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Jim Holland was a retired Olympic ski jumper and John Bresee a self-described ski bum when they teamed in 1996 to create Backcountry.com, an online retailer of high-end outdoor gear.
Eleven years, 300 employees and a string of impressive financial performances later, the pair have hit it big. Their company has been acquired by Denver-based Liberty Media Corp. - once a major player in the Salt Lake Valley's cable television picture - and they kept the existing management team intact.
Terms were not disclosed.
"There is no better ally for Backcountry.com than Liberty Media," said Backcountry chief executive Holland. He was a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team and two-time Olympian who also was on the Utah Athletic Foundation board, overseeing use of the Utah Olympic Park ski jumps outside of Park City.
"Their experience, resources and philosophy will enable us to improve our services and capacity on every level, while maintaining the independent spirit and culture that has been integral to Backcountry.com's success," he added.
Holland and Bresee, who once did kitchen work at Alta and Snowbird, founded their company to provide the best gear available to avid backcountry skiers.
From an initial investment of $2,000 in 1996, they took only one year to reach profitability. The company has achieved triple-digit growth in each of the past half-dozen years, said company spokesman Michael Geraci. In January, Backcountry.com announced plans to expand its headquarters in Park City and warehouse in Salt Lake City, moves that will result in 1,250 additional jobs.
The warehouse handles gear sold on six Web sites operated by the company - Backcountry.com, BackcountryOutlet.com, TramDock.com, DogFunk.com, Steepandcheap.com and WhiskeyMilitia.com.
Calling Backcountry.com a "pioneer in social commerce," Liberty Media senior vice president Michael Zeisser said his company's investment "represents another step in our stated strategy to seek acquisitions of commerce companies that have unique value propositions, outstanding management teams and strong track records to drive the continued growth of assets attributed to Liberty Interactive."
The Liberty Interactive branch of Liberty Media includes the QVC home-shopping network, Expedia, Provide Commerce and IAC/InterActiveCorp. Liberty Media's other arm, Liberty Capital, includes interests in Starz Entertainment, NewsCorp. and Time Warner. Monday's closing stock price for Liberty Media Holding Corp. was $25.44, down 24 cents.
Liberty Media is not new to Utah.
In 1994, it began a series of mergers with Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI), the state's biggest cable television service provider. That made it an owner of The Salt Lake Tribune in the late '90s, before TCI merged with AT&T in 1999. Two years later, Liberty Media split from AT&T.
Geraci said Back- country.com has been a takeover target for several years because of its explosive growth. The decision to combine with Liberty Media was based on a pledge to keep management intact and to continue to emphasize customer service.
"Those were things we were looking at in suitors," he said.
Liberty Media Corp. at a glance
* Trades publicly on NASDAQ for first time in 1991
* In 1994, Liberty Media begins series of mergers with Tele-Communications Inc
* Company becomes part of AT&T in 1999, but the marriage ends in 2001
Backcountry.com at a glance
* Founded in Heber City in 1996
* Listed as one of the top 25 outdoor retailers in the U.S. by Outdoor Business.
* Three-time winners of Internet Retailer's "50 Best Retail Sites" award
* Member of Inc. 500