Francesco Arese, who resigned as chairman of Asics Europe in 2013, has acquired control of the Finnish footwear company Karhu Holding BV.

“The Karhu brand will celebrate its centennial mark in 2016,” said Karhu Holding CEO Huub Valkenburg, who announced Wednesday that the company had entered a new agreement that makes the Arese family majority shareholder of the company. “With this new investment, and management from Emanuele and Francesco Arese, the Karhu brand is properly capitalized to usher in its 100 year anniversary.”


Under the agreement, Karhu Holding BV will establish a European office in Amsterdam to coordinate its global activities and revitalize its European operations. The company’s North American office will remain in Beverly, MA.


“Our first priority is to gear the Karhu brand up for its 100-year anniversary, invest in R&D, and focus on product creation and demand creation for the brand to maintain a Finnish premium image across the world,” said Arese.


The Arese family has a long history in the sports footwear and apparel industry. Francesco Arese is the founder of Asics Italy and the former chairman of Asics Europe, an organization he left in March of last year. He became the European 1,500 meter champion in Helsinki in 1971. As the former president of the Italian Athletic Federation and a current representative of the Italian Athletic Federation and board member of the European Athletic Association, Arese remains very active in the sport.


“I have always had a special relationship with Finland,” he said. “When I was an athlete, it was the main destination for runners in track and field events,” says Francesco Arese. “I used to spend the summers training in Turku and travelled to the most important track and field events throughout Scandinavia. During that time, I had the great fortune to train and compete with some of the legendary Finnish runners like Lasse Viren, Pekka Vasaala, Juha Vaatainen and Pekka Paivarinta”.


Emanuele Arese will join Karhu Holding as president of Karhu Holding BV. Like his father Francesco, Emanuele was a keen track and field athlete who later joined the family business in Italy. He most recently held the position of sales manager for Asics and Onitsuka Tiger at Asics Europe.


“We are proud of the Karhu brand, its heritage, its technology, and its clean image. We believe that the Karhu brand is iconic and resonates with both the performance running and lifestyle industry and look forward to investing in its growth,” says Emanuele Arese. Huub Valkenburg will resign as CEO of Craft Sportswear North America by the end of the year to focus on growing the Karhu brand in his role as CEO of Karhu Holding.


Karhu, Finnish for bear, is Finland’s legendary running brand. The company is owned by Karhu Holding, B.V.