Executive Suite: Tony Hawk leaps to top of financial empire

•Retail. Sports clothing maker Quiksilver zqk and Kohl's kss, the national department store chain, sell Tony Hawk-branded apparel and shoes popular among youths and twentysomething consumers. Quiksilver hopes to expand Hawk's clothing and marketing presence in Europe, Latin America and China, says President Marty Samuels of Quiksilver Americas.

•Multimedia. Hawk's 900 Films production firm does projects for ESPN, Fox Sports Net, Warner Bros. and others. He hosts a weekly radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. And he and an entertainment start-up called Funny or Die Networks have launched a website, Shred or Die (www.ShredOrDie.com), that showcases extreme sports videos.

Hawk also is popping up more on TV, making appearances on shows from Fox's Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? to ABC's Oprah's Big Give.

Meanwhile, as the skateboard king hits middle age, he hopes to leave a philanthropic legacy. Since 2003, his Tony Hawk Foundation has given $2 million to non-profits to help build 400 skate parks in poor neighborhoods from Yakima, Wash., to Greensboro, Ala. Hawk makes appearances to publicize the skate parks, and he also performs at celebrity fundraisers.

Getting started

In the 1980s, when Hawk was a gawky kid growing up in San Diego, skateboarding was a cult street activity for outcasts. Hawk says that skateboarding — called "skating" by the athletes — challenged him more than team sports. "I was a runt, a lot skinnier and smaller than other kids," he says, "so skating was a great physical outlet for me."

As skateboarding grew, the young Hawk won championships and endorsements that helped him buy a house and start a small skateboarding firm with his four siblings. But fickle teen consumers hurt the skateboarding market in the early 1990s, and Hawk's business struggled.

Then skateboarding took off again in the late 1990s, as the independent-minded children of baby boomers fell in love with extreme sports. ESPN's X Games became a huge hit, and Hawk's Pro Skater video games became top sellers.

In the USA, skateboarders, surfers and snowboarders spent $11 billion last year on sports gear, apparel and accessories — up from $5 billion in 1999, reports Board-Trac,a sports market research firm. For many, Tony Hawk became the face of extreme sports. He's "an icon to youths, and his appeal will continue to grow," says Marie Case, co-founder of Board-Trac.

In the $18 billion video game market, Tony Hawk games have sold 30 million units in the past decade and have consistently ranked in the top 10 in U.S. sales the years of their releases, says industry analyst Anita Frazier at the NPD Group research firm.

Activision's Kassoy says that Hawk's rise as a superstar converged with the video game industry's growing interest in the action-sports market. Hawk's games also gave players more freedom and creativity to guide and perform tricks with their skateboarding characters than older video games had.

"The Tony Hawk game changed the paradigm for action-sports games," Kassoy says.

Now Hawk runs Tony Hawk Inc., his private multimillion-dollar business with 30 employees, from spacious suburban offices 40 miles north of San Diego.

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