Tony Hawk leaps to top of financial empire

Meanwhile, sports apparel is evolving internationally into a funky mix of urban hip-hop fashions and suburban stylings from skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding, says chief analyst Marshal Cohen at NPD Group, who calls it "the skurban market."

"There's tremendous growth opportunity, and Tony Hawk can represent more than just (skateboarding)," Cohen says. "This market has evolved into a worldwide cultural phenomenon."

But even great athletes lose marketing clout when they retire, says marketing professor Brian Tillat St. Louis University in St. Louis. "If Hawk continues to tour, it'll serve him well," Till says. "But if he cashes out and moves to the Caribbean, he's won't have the same fan following or endorsements."

Hawk's colleagues say his appeal transcends generations, and his business acumen won't wane.

"Tony can still skate pretty damn well, and he lives the lifestyle," says Samuels at Quiksilver. "He's a pioneer and ambassador for the sport and the market."

Past the skateboarder's image, Hawk clearly has long-range plans for his ever-broadening business, although he won't disclose them.

"I wear a lot of different hats," Hawk says. "But in the end, I just want to be known as a skater."

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