Omega Sports Inc., a sporting goods chain based in Greensboro, NC, has been sold to Craig Carlock, the former CEO of The Fresh Market.
Terms were not disclosed.
Founded in 1978 by Phil Bowman and Thom Rock and later joined by Robert Hager, Omega Sports has grown from a single Greensboro location to 14 locations spanning the Triad, Triangle, Charlotte area and beyond.
Carlock, who led Fresh Market from January 2009 To January 2015, will become Omega Sports’ new CEO. Bowman will continue as president and Hager as VP with both continuing as investors in the company. Thom Rock, Omega Sports’ long-time director of marketing, is leaving the company to pursue other interests and volunteer work.
In an interview with SGB, Bowman stressed that besides Rock’s retirement, customers, the vendor community and its other partners should not notice any changes at Omega Sports.
“The only thing that’s really changing is the ownership. Management is staying in place and I’m still very involved with the company and will continue to be for an indefinite period.”
Bowman also believes he’s found a partner in Carlock to support Omega Sports’ business in the years ahead. Bowman said, “He’s totally into the culture that Omega has created through the years and his intention is to carry that even further.”
Bowman, who turns 70 this year, said he’s been thinking about succession strategies for several years. He didn’t want to pursue a buyout with an equity buyer or strategic partner in part because some past deals with other sporting good chains “haven’t worked out so well.” Omega Sports was never put on the market for sale.
Bowman met Carlock through a mutual friend several years ago that “developed into a relationship” and eventually to discussions over a potential sale in recent years.
Carlock has strong roots in North Carolina that Bowman sees as critical in preserving the chain’s culture. After first moving to North Carolina in 1985 to attend Davidson College, where he earned a B.A. in economics, he received an MBA in finance and marketing from University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
In 1999, Carlock moved to Greensboro, where Fresh Market is also based.
Carlock is also a seasoned retail executive, As CEO, he nearly doubled Fresh Market’s store count from 86 stores at the start of 2009 to 169 by the close of 2014. He also guided Fresh Market’s initial public offering in 2010. He first joined Fresh Market as director of marketing in June 2000.
Finally, Carlock shares a passion for active lifestyles and even sees parallels in the sporting goods industry to Fresh Market’s health & wellness positioning. Since leaving Fresh Market, he’s worked with several investment firms as an advisor and was seeking out the next opportunity as acquisition negotiations advanced
“It was just a great matchup and perfect timing,” said Bowman. “It was a perfect situation for someone to come in and still grow our company, protect our culture and carry on the Omega tradition.”
Craig Carlock, who was traveling on Monday and couldn’t be reached for comment, said in a statement, “Since moving to Greensboro in 1999, I have been impressed with Omega Sports’ outstanding customer service and product offering. In my professional and personal life, I believe in supporting local business development, so this opportunity with Omega Sports is particularly gratifying.”
He added, “”As a result of the founders’ leadership, superb store management, dedicated employees and a loyal customer base, Omega Sports is well-positioned for future success. I look forward to continuing the path forward.”
The retailer operates 14 stores in North Carolina, including in Greensboro, Burlington, Cary, Charlotte, Durham, Greenville, High Point, Huntersville, Morrisville, Raleigh, Wilmington, Wilson and Winston-Salem.
Bowman said the company has no plans to close any of its 14 stores and Carlock intends to “conservatively grow” the chain in the years ahead.
Photo courtesy Omega Sports