In 1979, Paul Fireman acquired the rights to distribute running shoes in the United States for a small, high-quality manufacturer of custom-made track shoes. Fireman recognized the potential of the century-old J.W. Foster & Sons and decided to take a risk on the Bolton, England company.
Three years later, the running shoes were doing a modest business. Fireman noted an emerging trend on the horizon - aerobic fitness. He introduced the first aerobic shoe in the United States and quickly followed with a full line of garment leather aerobic shoes in a spectrum of fashion colors.
Fireman subsequently moved the company into new categories ranging from cycling footwear and apparel, children's shoes and women's fashion footwear - Metaphors - and a full line of performance sportswear. This marketing strategy has made Reebok the hottest footwear and apparel brand in the country. By 1984, U.S. sales were at an astounding $66 million, up from just $1.2 million in 1982. Fireman organized a buy out from the British founder in 1984 and reorganized as Reebok International Ltd. Reebok stock was offered to the public in 1985. Its shares were listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and the company continued its explosive growth, recording sales of $307 million in 1985, $919 million in 1986, $104 billion in 1987, and $1.8 billion in 1988.
Fireman's efforts on behalf of Reebok have not gone unnoticed. He has been named Ad Week's Marketer of the Year and Man of the Year by the National Shoe Retailer's Association and Footwear News. He has also received the Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award.
What does the future hold for Reebok and Paul Fireman? With the purchase of Boston Whaler last summer, Fireman demonstrated that he is ready to move outside the areas in which he has achieved success.
Fireman considers education to be a vital aspect of the future. "What I hope we can instill is motivation. I believe that the way you're going to inspire people is by getting them to understand that there is opportunity and by providing an atmosphere where achievement is encouraged." By turning his company into the largest and most successful designer, developer, and marketer of high-quality athletic and casual footwear and apparel in the country, Paul Fireman has certainly taken full advantage of the opportunities that have been presented to him.