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BUSINESS WATCH:Not just another 'logo on a T-shirt'

New CEO of Hot Tuna sets up surf lesson for ex-gang members; some trainees may go on to land jobs with the surf wear company.

July 24, 2007|By Michael Miller

Niels Juul may grow wealthy enough in his new job to own a mansion, servants and a fleet of sports cars.

But he'll have none of it.

The Denmark native, who took over last month as chief executive of the surf clothing retailer Hot Tuna, believes in using his power for the greater good. In his last job, as managing director for the clothing company Von Dutch, he oversaw a worldwide charity drive for tsunami victims. Now, Juul is seeking a philanthropic role for Hot Tuna — and he started Saturday by teaching 16 former gang members how to surf.

At noon, Juul set up a training session at the Santa Ana River Jetties for Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles-based program that helps ex-gang members find steady employment. Some of the trainees, who worked with four professional surfers, may go on to land jobs with Hot Tuna. If they do, it's a win-win situation.

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"We don't just want to be a surf brand with a logo on a T-shirt," said Juul, who oversees Hot Tuna's worldwide operations from the company's Newport Beach office. "We want to stand for something."

Juul may be a newcomer to surf culture, but he brings worldwide experience to his new post. He started with an advertising agency in Copenhagen in the 1980s and then moved to the eyewear company Filtenborg, opening its first division in the United States. With Von Dutch, where he built a global retail network, he made his home in Australia, France and England.

Earlier this year, Hot Tuna — which originated in Australia in 1969 and is run by model Elle Macpherson — recruited Juul, who was living in Los Angeles at the time. He rented a room at the Bay Shore Inn and promptly threw himself into planning new lines of swimwear, eyewear and other garments for the company.

In embracing beach culture, Juul had a valuable ally. Cody Graham, a professional surfer who works as the company's marketing director, helped him conceive a pair of new T-shirt slogans: "Don't Snake Me" and "No High Maka Maka." The former, in surf-speak, translates to "don't steal my wave;" the latter means "no inflated egos."

"With his business expertise and my surfing expertise, we complement each other," Graham said. "We can create something great together for this company."


  • MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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