New Cold Steel Owners GSM Outdoors Talk Acquisition, Future

The biggest end of the year surprise in the knife world was when Cold Steel founder Lynn C. Thompson announced the sale of his company to GSM Outdoors earlier this month. Immediately questions arose about the future of Cold Steel’s products, materials, and, most importantly, the personnel.

We had a chance to talk with Doug Mann, Vice President of Product Development & Brand Management at GSM Outdoors, to discuss the acquisition, and what will and won’t change going forward.

Who’s Staying, and What’s Changing?

First and foremost, the GSM deal means that Cold Steel’s California-based operation has been shut down. This means that, yes, Cold Steel employees lost their jobs. “Operations were relocated to our headquarters in Irving, TX,” Mann explains. He goes on to say that some personnel was retained. “Employment offers were extended to several people, some accepted while others did not. The lead sharpener and designer were among those that have either relocated or accepted new jobs with the company. Unfortunately some positions were eliminated.”

Mann also told us what Thompson himself already confirmed: that both he and Andrew Demko are staying with the company. “Lynn Thompson is still on board and is currently working to finalize the 2021 new items and will be working with our team on new designs for the future,” Mann says. “Andrew Demko will continue to do what he has done for Cold Steel for years by bringing cutting edge knife designs to the table.” More than 20 new products were in the pipeline prior to the sale, and those are still expected to be revealed in the coming months.

Mann points out that there will be some immediate major changes on the consumer end. Cold Steel’s branding has been given a refresh. “Two things that everyone has most likely already noticed are a new website and updated logo.” The second change is something that was important to Thompson when considering GSM as a prospective buyer: the ability to produce and maintain consistent stock of products.

Over the last few years, certain Cold Steel knives – particularly headliners like the AD-10 – went through periods of restricted availability. “Cold Steel’s devoted following may have noticed a lot of items were out of stock prior to the sale of the company,” Mann says. “GSM brings the financial foundation to keep inventory levels in line with customer demand.”

The Future of Cold Steel’s Models and Materials

But what about discontinuations? Does GSM intend to trim the catalog down now that they’re in control? “There are no plans to discontinue or halt production of any models at this time,” Mann says. “That being said, Lynn opted to keep some of the niche categories for himself such as blowguns and spears, hence why they are notably absent on the new Cold Steel website.”

A corollary concern to potential discontinuations was the future of Cold Steel’s material choices. The community has watched Cold Steel move from entry-level and budget stainlesses into some very capable, high-performance steel at their behest. There’s understandable worry that the new ownership won’t have the same priorities in this department. “It’s important to note that there are no plans to change the steels used in the knives,” Mann responds. “We are committed to maintaining the level of quality and performance that Cold Steel’s hard-earned reputation was built upon.”

Who is GSM?

We also asked Mann if he could tell us a little bit more about GSM itself. “The team at GSM is comprised of avid outdoorsmen many of whom already carried a Cold Steel knife,” he says. The company, which owns multiple outdoors-centric brands, planned an entry into the knife world with the acquisition of an existing brand. “We flew out to Ventura and met with [Thompson] and his team, and were immediately impressed with the passion and knowledge that is very much in line with our philosophy,” Mann elaborates. “Several months later a deal was reached, and Lynn sold the company.”