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 BOTHELL, Wash., Jan. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Brooks Sports Inc., one of the oldest running shoe companies in the United States, announced today the appointment of a new president, Helen Rockey, a former Nike executive.
 Rockey, 38, the first woman in the nation to be elected to head a major athletic shoe company, worked with Nike for 10 years in a series of sales and marketing positions. Rockey has been general manager of accessories and sports graphics and guided new business development for Nike.
 "Helen Rockey has an excellent line management background and solid hands-on-experience in developing business," said Bjorn Gjelsten, Brooks chairman and co-owner. "She lives the life -- she's a runner as well as an astute business woman."
 Brooks moved to Bothell, near Seattle, in May, three months after it was acquired by The Rokke Group, a Norwegian-based conglomerate of sporting goods, fishing, shipbuilding and real estate companies. It subsequently introduced The Truth, which has a composite rollbar midsole component providing stability that does not break down. The Truth has been hailed as one of the most technologically innovative shoe designs in 20 years. Brooks also introduced the Gazelle, a value-priced shoe that has received excellent industry reviews.
 Annual sales in 1993 were about $110 million, of which $25 million were in the United States.
 Gjelsten, who lives in Oslo, Norway, has had day-to-day responsibility for Brooks since the departure of a previous senior management team in late summer. In the past several months, Gjelsten said, Brooks has streamlined its operations, improved its internal reporting systems and consolidated Asian sourcing of shoe production. It has introduced improved quality control measures on the factory floor and expedited both production and deliveries.
 "Because of the excellent response we've had to Brooks shoes in Europe, we have defined Europe as a major market focus and established a distributor system to support the sales effort," Gjelsten said. "We will be signing up licensing partners for our business in South and Central America, Asia and the Far East.
 "Fresh leadership will also enable us to build on our improvements of the past four months," he added. "We will give greater attention to the task of increasing sales in the United States and working more closely with retailers to help them be successful."
 Gjelsten noted that The Rokke Group has a successful track record in retail sales and was drawn to buy the Brooks operation in February 1993, because of the high quality of its shoes.
 Rokke's interests include the 220-unit Gresvig chain of sporting goods stores, the largest sporting goods retail operation in Scandinavia, where Brooks is the next-to-largest selling brand. Rokke also is a leading company in the fishing, real estate and shipbuilding industries in Norway.
 Rockey said she was attracted to Brooks because of the strong heritage of the Brooks brand, the uncompromising values of its owners and their commitment to producing quality shoes. "The company has a long-term orientation that encourages the development of new products and is committed to working on a team basis with employees and retailers," she said.
 "Running is regaining popularity and the running shoe niche is growing," she noted. "This industry started with running shoes and they are coming full circle as an important market category. The niche will grow over the next five years and there will continue to be hybrid applications such as trail running and other outdoor and off-track activities."
 Rockey's earlier experiences include the vice presidency of marketing for Big Toys and as a business analyst and productivity manager for Boise Cascade. She has a master's degree in business administration in finance and bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Washington.
 Established in 1914, Brooks is perhaps best known for producing shoes for the serious runner. One of its most popular shoes is The Chariot, worn by many runners in the 1970s.
 NOTE: There is no family relationship between Rokke and Rockey.
 -0- 1/12/94
 /CONTACT: Monty Dennison of The Rockey Co., 206-728-1100, for Brooks Sports; or Bjorn Gjelsten of Brooks Sports, 206-489-2489 or 206-669-5973/

CO: Brooks Sports ST: Washington IN: TEX SU: PER

IC-JH -- SE011 -- 1579 01/12/94 18:04 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 12, 1994
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