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Tony Ellsworth rejoining Ellsworth Bikes

Published January 20, 2022
Ellsworth will take an active role in design and development of his namesake brand after a four-year absence.

SAN DIEGO (BRAIN) — Tony Ellsworth is returning to his namesake mountain bike brand after a four-year absence to become chief development/design officer.

"We're here sitting on my property in Ramona (California), which is the original home of Ellsworth Bikes, making plans," Ellsworth told BRAIN on Wednesday, hours after he rejoined the company, now owned by RP Designs CEO Rudi Pienaar. "We're pretty excited, both of us."

Ellsworth, who last had an active role in 2018 under the ASG Group ownership, saw the opportunity to restore the brand with Pienaar, who acquired it in December. Ellsworth said he planned to start another mountain bike company and then heard Pienaar had purchased his San Diego-based company from the ASG Group, which acquired it in 2018. Ellsworth remained with ASG initially before leaving the same year "when ASG decided they weren't going to do product development anymore," he said.

Ellsworth founded the company in 1991 and now has a partnership with someone who he said shares a vision for how to operate the company "in a way where we won't have some of the pitfalls that have occurred to it previously."

"I think on that first call (to Rudi in December), I might have been a little curmudgeonly," Ellsworth said. "Almost immediately, in sharing our experience with the brand, it was apparent we definitely shared values for operating a business and working with partners constructively."

Pienaar's interest in Ellsworth goes beyond a business opportunity. He said he's been a fan for many years, racing Ellsworth Bikes in South Africa, and leapt at the chance to acquire it.

"When Tony first reached out, we sat on the phone for over three hours late that night," Pienaar said. "Tony and I really synced on several aspects on what we're like as people and what we like about the brand and what we're excited to do with the brand. To be here today and now officially have Tony back in the company with a very clear purpose for what we want to do to make Ellsworth better than it ever was before, it's a fantastic day for me."

Both said Ellsworth Bikes will be a separate entity from RP Designs, which will manufacture components and a bike model, and Ellsworth's The Ride Group e-bike line. However, they said, technologies from all will be shared.

Bringing manufacturing to the U.S. is another shared goal. Ellsworth said they are close to announcing a future production facility on the West Coast. He also said plans for this year include launching two Ellsworth bikes, "as quickly as the supply chain will allow," the iconic Truth and a new model Ellsworth said ASG never produced.

RP Designs' first component, The Smart-Cockpit, is an integrated touch screen built into the handlebar — flat bar and drop bar designs — that features wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto technology.

It's also developing the Project California "high-end cruiser" with a high-modulus carbon frame that will integrate the Smart-Cockpit to serve the needs of a commuter. It will be available to a limited number of consumers with the ability to customize, with the majority being sold B2B for fleet use by selected luxury hotel chains, Pienaar said.

Before ASG, Ellsworth Bikes was purchased in 2014 by BST Nano Carbon, a design and composites manufacturer. In 2016, Ellsworth Bikes was acquired by a San Diego-based investor.

Rudi Pienaar, left, and Tony Ellsworth.
Topics associated with this article: Mergers, Acquisitions & Investments

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