Business people : Keen veteran Kirk Richardson returns to Keen

Kirk Richardson has returned to Keen, Inc., for a second tour of duty.

Richardson this morning described his role as "strategic planning for footwear" at the Portland-based footwear, bag and sock brand.

He started Sept. 1 after having left Specialized Bicycle this summer as its general manager for the U.S. market. Richardson declined to describe why he left Specialized, based in Morgan Hill, Calif., near San Jose, after having started in January.

Richardson was named Keen president in 2006 after the brand moved from Alameda, Calif., to Portland. He stepped aside in 2008 to become chief of corporate social responsibility.

Richardson's name is familiar to many in Portland footwear and apparel. He is a 27-year Nike employee with two years in Japan and three years in Germany. He is a former Columbia Sportswear footwear general manager who worked for subsidiaries Mountain Hardwear as its interim president and Montrail as business development director.

Richardson said he would not be a candidate to be Keen president this time around. He listed the variety of responsibilities of a brand president to illustrate his point. The vacancy was created when James Curleigh, former Keen president and chief executive officer, left to be an executive vice president of Levi Strauss & Co. and Levi's brand president. Curleigh succeeded Richardson at Keen.

Richardson also attributed recent executive departures from Keen as a natural offshoot of a young brand's growth. "It's evolving in the way you'd expect it to," he said, adding that his month at the company shows it to be "pretty darn stable."

In addition to the brand, this also marks the second time that Richardson has worked for Keen's majority owner, Rory Fuerst. Fuerst also owns Chrome Industries, which makes Chrome-brand messenger bags and is a one-time part-owner of bag brand Timbuktu.

"Rory Fuerst is a remarkable entrepreneur," Richardson said. "He's a force of nature."

Since Curleigh's departure the agency has lost its advertising agency, its vice president for marketing, its vice president for design and development and its chief financial officer.

Richardson today moved into the company's new home, five-story, 50,000-square-foot building at Northwest 13th Avenue and Glisan Street. The company's 130 employees in Portland are expected to complete their move in three weeks from their previous office, also on Northwest 13th Avenue. A new Keen Garage will open in December at the new home and the old Keen Garage will close.

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