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Outdoor-Gear Firm Settles Internal Feud

Times Staff Writer

A fight for control of Wilderness Experience was resolved Tuesday when the two competing stockholder factions agreed to share power and retain Greg Thomsen as chairman.

The settlement, approved Tuesday at a special proxy meeting, forms a new board of directors, giving three seats to each side and a seventh seat to MarBen Associates, the Los Angeles partnership that last month acquired a controlling 31.6% stake in the company.

As part of that deal, MarBen also got a warrant from Wilderness Experience to buy a majority interest in the Chatsworth-based maker of outdoor gear.

Just how the compromise settlement will affect the company’s future is not clear. Board members said they have not decided what kinds of changes will occur at the company.

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Fight Over Diversification

The proxy fight between chairman Thomsen and his brother, former company President Jim Thomsen, for control of Wilderness Experience began Aug. 14. But the dispute between the brothers dates back to 1982, when Jim Thomsen resigned after a disagreement about the company’s diversification into sportswear and about increased overseas manufacturing.

In waging the proxy fight, Jim Thomsen’s group, the Committee to Save Wilderness Experience, said it sought control in an effort to improve the company’s recent lackluster performance.

For the six months ended April 30, Wilderness Experience lost $285,000 on sales of $3.1 million, versus earnings of $46,000 on sales of $2.7 million for the same period last year. Additionally, the company defaulted on a loan earlier this year and predicts a loss in its third quarter ended July 31.

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The new board members, representing the Committee, are William Kaplan and James Donini, both Wilderness Experience salesmen, and George Brown, president of Brenco Enterprises, a footwear importer.

Resigning from the board were Theodore Weiland, the company’s chief financial officer, and Linda S. Lockwood, the company’s controller.


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