Roelof de Leeuw is heading up the newly-created European operations of GBMI, the American group that owns Pony and licenses a flurry of shoe brands including Diesel and Nautica. The move is intended to spread distribution of these brands throughout Europe and to gradually set up sales offices or full-fledged subsidiaries in the largest markets.

De Leeuw, who is 38 years old, previously worked at JSI, the Dutch company that distributes O’Neill in Europe, among other activities. He started as a European sales director for Simmer Style, another of JSI’s brands, and went on to head distribution of Pony and Russell Athletic in the Dutch market. De Leeuw’s appointment as managing director of GBMI Europe BV became effective this week. The European office should be opened in Amsterdam at the beginning of March, fitted with a showroom.

To begin with, De Leeuw is recruiting agents for Germany and Belgium, two countries where GBMI’s existing distribution deals ended in January and were not renewed. Orders will be serviced from a logistics centre in the Netherlands. For the next season, the company intends to recruit sales agents in Italy, Denmark and Sweden.

De Leeuw will report to Charles Dallain, vice president of international operations at GBMI, who steers the group’s European activities from its head office in Santa Barbara, California. Separately, GBMI has recruited Rick Heer to act as vice president and controller, reporting to the company’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, Tom Walsh.