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Iconic Australian surfwear brand Hot Tuna up for sale

Wednesday, 16 November 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Australian-founded surfwear brand Hot Tuna is up for sale due to slow growth and a stagnant market, according to reports.

 

Hot Tuna was founded in 1969 by Australian surfer Richard Meldrum and his fashion designer wife Jo-Anne Meldrum. The brand rose to fame for its retro and unconventional graphic prints.

 

In the 1980s, the Hot Tuna logo of a piranha became a powerful motif for the decade, ensuring the company’s status as a standout label among young beachgoers.

 

The brand was also defined by its raw and quirky advertising, which quickly evolved into groundbreaking fashion shoots featuring world-renowned photographers like Graham Shearer.

 

The early campaigns often featured bikini-clad models paired with pro surfers, delivering a quintessentially Australian image, while later campaigns focused on surfers’ irreverent attitudes.

 

These subversive campaigns were intended to shock what was considered quite a conservative industry. In doing so, Hot Tuna pioneered a change in attitude within the surf community.

 

Throughout its history, the brand has maintained its organic cult status among action sport enthusiasts. It has transcended generations and continues to find relevance in youth fashion.

 

The Meldrums went on to sell the business to British investors, which saw the company relocate its headquarters to the United Kingdom.

 

It’s now been revealed the brand is up for sale, although no prospective buyers have been named. The company has attributed the sale to weak trading conditions in overseas markets.

 

Hot Tuna sells goods to the Australian, UK and US markets. While trade sales in Australia continue to grow, overall international business is below budget.

 

Executive chairman Francis Ball said in a statement that raising new investment from existing shareholders, for the development and promotion of the Hot Tuna brand, would be difficult.

 

“It is unfortunate that the current equity funding environment makes it very difficult for us to raise further capital,” Ball said.

 

“As a result, we believe that the future of the business, its customers, distributors, suppliers and employees is best served through a sale of the brand.”

 

“The retail environment continues to be challenging in the UK, US and continental Europe, which is undoubtedly impacting revenues in the current financial year.”


“Action has already been taken to reduce costs. However, there is a need to invest in and promote the Hot Tuna brand, and our rate of growth, whilst encouraging, is slower than previously expected.”

 

Despite the company’s woes, Ball believes there is a “great opportunity” for Hot Tuna in South East Asia, in conjunction with a prospective new Australian distribution partner.

 

On completion of the sale, Ball, along with the company’s international chief executive Geoffrey O’Connell and brand director Oscar Verden, will step down.

 

“We will go with the brand. Hot Tuna will remain as a cash shell… No doubt they will have to change their name,” Ball said.