On January 19, two-time Thrasher magazine Skater of the Year Chris Cole and his longtime boss/teammate Jamie Thomas announced that Cole was being brought on as a partner in Zero skateboards, the brand that Thomas owned and founded and that Cole has been sponsored by for nearly 10 years.
On Jan. 14, just five days prior to the Zero announcement, Cole had announced that he would be riding for DC shoes. Inside of skateboarding, the news surprised few in the know, but the move to DC still sparked debate on what would happen to Cole's relationship with Thomas and the Zero brand.
Prior to DC, Cole had ridden for Thomas' company, Fallen footwear, for several years, and helped raise the brand's profile around the world. Since Fallen and Zero are both owned by Thomas and distributed by Black Box Distribution, many wondered if Cole's decision to leave Fallen for DC would adversely affect his role on the Zero team. That turned out not to be the case.
"Zero is the only company I wanna ride for," said Cole. "It is also the only company that fits me. They nail it over there. Whether it's graphics, videos, team -- they kill it, and always have. Being more integrated in this company is something I've been working into forever. And to be a shareholder is a dream. I'll be directly affecting the brand positively, from the skating to the planning. That's perfect for me."
In an interview with Mark Whitely on the Black Box website, Thomas clarified the decision to bring Cole in on the ownership side:
"Throughout the discussions about Fallen he kept telling me, 'I want to stay on Zero,' but it was obvious that whatever he was involved in he should get paid through the roof or have a stake in the company. So with that in mind, I suggested that we pay him really well and give him a stake, and Cole was down."
As a tremendous skateboarder who appeals to both the core audience and contest fans alike (Cole is a four-time X Games gold medalist, and has won three Maloof Money Cup events which earned him $100,000 per win), Cole's value to any brand is astronomical. With Zero being one of the best selling hard goods brands in skateboarding, Cole's shareholder status is one effective way of making his continued involvement with the brand financially worthwhile for him.
Since Cole and Thomas are close friends who have together been the two leading influences behind Zero for nearly a decade, the direction of the brand, and Cole's influence on it, will likely stay the course.