Tom Kartsotis is the founder of multi-billion-dollar watch company Fossil Group, the founder of brand management firm Bedrock Manufacturing Co and the founder of American luxury lifestyle brand Shinola, which specialises in watches, bicycles and leather goods.
It was in the early 1980s that a then 24-year-old Kartsotis started making cheap fashion watches under the name Fossil. His older brother Kosta, a former Sanger Harris executive, helped get the line into department stores. Less than 10 years later, the brand went public and, along the way, grew from a small watch company into a global lifestyle brand, selling over $3.2 billion worth of watches, handbags and clothing annually. Kartsotis was chairman and chief executive until 2000 and remained chairman until 2010. He still holds a small but undisclosed stake in the company.
In 2003, Kartsotis founded his private equity and brand management firm, Bedrock Manufacturing Co, named after the hometown of cartoon character Fred Flintstone. Bedrock itself flies under the radar, but the Texas-based company has quietly built up a portfolio of consumer brands, with a particular interest in American products.
Kartsotis is active on a daily basis in the management of Bedrock and its various brands. In 2011, he set up a state-of-the-art operation called Shinola that now produces 500,000 high-quality watches a year, as well as bicycles, leather goods and hand-crafted journals.
Shinola takes its name from the American shoe polish that was popularised by the expression, “You don’t know shit from Shinola.” The no-nonsense attitude also comes through in the Detroit-based company’s designs, which evoke a “Made in the USA” sense of pride, a badge of quality and reliability.
In 2012, Bedrock added Filson to its portfolio. Founded in 1897 and based in Seattle, the brand continues to hand-make all its designs, from outdoor wear to leather bags, in America.