Mike Mo Capaldi will soon be leaving Lakai for a new shoe sponsor. Rumors about his departure have been going around for some time but now Lakai has released a video from the KOTR victory party in which Mike Carroll announces that Mike Mo will move on to a new footwear sponsor. Word on the streets/internet is that he will sign to DC, including a apparel deal which means he will be leaving Matix as well.
The post-Fully Flared years have been tough on Lakai. Seven riders that were part of the team in the (classic) video have left for new sponsors (or, in the case of Scott Johnston, retired) Anthony Pappalardo (Converse), Cairo Foster (etnies), Alex Olson (Vans), Eric Koston (Nike), Lucas Puig (adidas) and now Mike Mo. Besides Cairo this is a group of highly marketable skaters who are able to sell product, not only because of their talent and personality, but also because of their board sponsor.
This statement, taken from a Mike York interview on The Chromeball Incident, is still true to this day. Look at the riders who left Lakai. Besides Cairo Foster all of them ride for companies that are considered 'stylish': Girl, Chocolate and Cliché. Their video's, commercials and ads are always top notch or even groundbreaking, which has also lead to appreciation and praise outside the skateboard realm. Brands love being associated with riders on these teams because they become cool by association. And if those riders are as marketable and well known as Mike Mo, Olson or Koston companies are willing to lay down the big bucks, amounts of money that an independent company like Lakai will never be able to match.
Of course there's a core of Lakai riders that will never jump ship. Owners Mike Carroll and RIck Howard for instance, but also Marc Johnson, Guy Mariano and Brandon Biebel who have been part of the family for such a long time that they will remain loyal. The rest of the team features off the radar/less marketable guys like Frenchmen JJ Rosseau and JB Gillet, British duo Nick Jensen and Danny Brady and long time Lakai riders Jeff Lenoce and Rob Welsh. None of which ride for Girl or Chocolate.
The way things are going Lakai might become just a development team. You get on early, usually because you ride for one of the Girl brands, build a name for yourself and after some time the big brands will shove a huge contract under your nose which is hard to say no to. Current ams Raven Tershy and Riley Hawk are real up and comers and, if the market continues to grow, will most likely be bought away by the big guys. Lakai will replace them with new, young, talented riders and the same thing will probably happen again. The split between the major, public shoebrands and the independent ones is slowly becoming bigger than ever. Not just in the teams but also on the shelves of your local shop.
... and that was how my original post on this subject ended. However, right before I wanted to submit it, something appeared on the Facebook page of Lakai Team Manager Kelly Bird...
Doesn’t seem like the phone panned out too well, so I’ll give it a shot here. To preface, I’m not really looking to get into a bunch of heated rhetoric about this, but I do feel like we should have some dialogue about this Mike Mo thing that’s going on right now.
I’m not so naïve as to think that he won’t have his suitors over the course of time, nor am I going to try and deprive the guy of any opportunities he deems suitable for himself if he feels like the ones we provide aren’t enough. However, I am a little taken aback about how aggressive and somewhat negative I understand the approach to have been.
On the one hand, I feel like the basic guideline for what we both do is ‘for the skaters, by the skaters’. On the other, from what I’ve heard, some of what’s being conveyed to Mike Mo is that Lakai will never be a company that can give him what’s on offer outside of here. In essence, a sort of penalization for being run in a manner we both champion. A bit ironic.
I’m not saying Lakai is ever going to be a 500 million dollar company, but we’ve spent the better part of the last year fighting to get it somewhere it can be better than the third option, and we’re finally in the closing stage of making that happen. Whereas in the past there may have been some non-skate element to help justify walking away from Lakai, that won’t be the case going forward.
Even as a third option under pre-existing circumstance, Lakai has finally taken hold in the market and is showing great promise. Going forward, we’re gong to bring in as many skateboarders as possible (employees and riders) to finally help us fulfill the potential we know is there. In doing so, I actually am confident we’ll finally be able to grow to a level where we can give back to skateboarders and skateboarding comparably.
In closing, as I said before, I won’t stand in the way of any decision Mike Mo decides to make when his contract expires at the end of the year. But I am asking that as someone who owns and runs a company under the same premise as us, that you reconsider before offering the idea that a skateboarder can’t get the most out of skateboarding unless it’s through a company that mostly profits outside of skateboarding.
As two people that are interested in keeping whatever commanding heights of the industry are left in the hands of skateboarders, I would like to think this is something we could both agree corresponds with our longer term ideals. If we truly want to get to a level where skate brands can provide the most for skateboarders, it seems like the overall message should be consistent no matter what the context.
Hope you’ll agree. Thanks.
And I'm truly honest, I really wanted to contribute something on this side without bitching on Steve Berra. I really wanted to. But he just asks for it... Yes, the Steve Kelly Bird refers to is in fact our good friend and private skatepark owner Steve Berra. You know, the guy that does everything he does just for the greater good of skateboarding. I'm not even going to waste more time talking about this dude and the shady ways he operates. Fuck him.