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WGP Buys K2
21 April 2004
Story by Bill and Dawn Mills - WARPIG file photos by Dawn Mills
Corona, CA - Worr Game Products was purchased on April 20, 2004 by K2 Incorporated to further increase the share of paintball equipment being produced under the publicly held K2 banner. This announcement follows the December 2003 announcement of K2’s merger with Brass Eagle which is now a wholly owned subsidiary.
a release of fiscal information also presented on April 20th, K2’s Richard
Heckmann, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, "We are extremely
pleased with the results of the first quarter which were driven by strength
across all our divisions and product lines. Our record performance is a
reflection of our premier stable of sporting goods brands, continued successful
integration of our recent acquisitions and the achievement of operating
efficiencies across our businesses. Consistent with our strategic plan,
we recently completed two acquisitions that fit perfectly with K2's other
paintball brands, and our Stearns Marine division. We continue to believe
that we are well positioned to benefit from the consolidation of sporting
goods retailers worldwide and to see additional opportunities that will
drive consolidation on the equipment side of the business."
K2 anticipates that Worr will provide a platform for further growth in the premium marker segment, and will be highly complementary to K2's other paintball businesses including its existing premium JT brand. Worr and JT will also benefit from common distribution channels.
Worr Game Products has been a family owned and run business since the mid 1980s. The company has risen to prominence through the efforts of Bud Orr and his family, wife Kathy and son Jeff as well as many friends who Bud counts as close. Innovations and a strong reputation kept the company alive and no doubt caught the eye of K2’s investment minded acquisition team.
Bud Orr had worked as a civilian contractor for the Navy doing anything from painting, welding, ship fitting, machining, air compression, diving and working with high pressure pneumatics while enjoying diverse hobbies including auto racing, boat racing and SCUBA diving. He played his first paintball game with his son Jeff in 1985. After being shot up when changing his CO2 cartridge, the next week, he modified a gun to have a bleed valve to fool people into thinking he’d dumped his CO2 cartridge.
Bud built his first paintball produce, the DC9 conversion with adapters from diving buoyancy compensators. The DC9 put two one-ounce CO2 cartridges on the back of a Nel-Spot 007. Later he talked to SC Village about being an Airsmith. At the time there were just some tents, and Bud brought a trailer to work out of at the field. Bud got in with Earon Carter, and then Stan Russell who was making custom Annihilators. He decided to build his own gun after hearing complaints at the field and wanting to improve performance of the markers.
His first gun was the Sniper, the Sheridan PGP valve system in an aluminum body. The cocking block was designed to replace the cocking slot, this keeping dirt out of the hammer area – the removable barrel and vertical CO2 tank were new features innovated by Bud.
“It was 2 hours before Miami Vice,” he told WARPIG.com, “By the time the show was on, I had a body. After the show, I worked until midnight, and at 6 in the morning, I started again, and finished at 9. I took the gun to War Zone, and shot Stan Russell in the butt with it.” The two had an accuracy contest shooting paint tubes off a fence. Bud won the contest.
Orr worked for 5 years at SC Village as an airsmith with his wife Kathy on the weekends and had a hand in making the first Speedball field with Dennis Bukowski. During that time he used to work with constant air (refillable CO2 tanks used in paintball) innovator Lou “Gramps” Grubb. “It was a close family back then. A lot of the people working together,” said Orr.
Another big impact in Bud’s life and the business dynamic was his close relationship with Tom Kaye of Airgun Designs. The two shared development ideas and encouraged each other when they had young companies. PMI co-owner Dave Freeman introduced Bud to Tom in 1987. Through the years there has been an undeniably strong level of trust between them, even though they have been positioned as competitors, especially during the mid 1990s when the top tournament paintball teams usually used either Autocockers or Automags.
“I honestly say I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Ray Gong,” says Orr of his long time friend and business associate. Gong was working to make Paintball legal in New Jersey, and Bud was asked to be an expert witness. Ray helped with financing for early expansion of the company, and was very important to the growth. Orr also cites Russ Maynard having done a lot to promote WPG. Al Iba of I&I Sports was one of his Bud’s first customers, and responsible for a significant amount of sales sales. WGP’s first mail order customer was Hal Robinson of Wacky Warriors.
Orr told WARPIG.com, “You can always depend on these friends, even though we’ve had our ups and downs. My son Jeff, Dennis and Ray are heroes to me.”
Inspiration for the Autococker came in 1988. Orr had been thinking of pneumatics because he’d worked with it for machining in the Navy. According to Bud, Matt Brown was at SC Village shooting a Sheridan paintgun with big huge regulator, and ram so large that it kept breaking the cocking lug. Similarly, the first Autococker prototype blew the bolt out the back of the paintgun. Bud says he met a player from Sacramento named Jamel who had input on the design as he continued to improve it. While he admits that the first Autococker was very crude, he refined the idea, and showed it at a Lively event in 89 or 90. The original 3-way valve was operated by the sear. He showed the gun to Bob Long, and landed the deal to sponsored the original Ironmen professional team, who greatly publicized its role as a high end tournament paintgun.
Few paintguns from the 1980s survive in production today, let alone in use by serious tournament paintball players, yet the original WGP Sniper, with the addition of pneumatic cocking evolved into the Autococker and is still in the game.
In a Warpig.com interview held in 1999, Bud said, “People think I’m nuts for teaching about other people’s guns” when asked about PTI, the Paintball Technical Institute. PTI has produced a series of workshops geared to teaching airsmithing, operation, and technical know-how. Orr was a founding partner in PTI, along with Bob McGuire, owner of American Paintball League paintball insurance, and John Henry, former owner of Paintball 2 Xtremes magazine.
Through PTI Orr has taught people how
to repair sell, and maintain both his guns and his competitors. “Brass
Eagle is the reason we are here now,” he said. “They have done more
for their industry in as short a time as anyone else in the industry.
If you added up everyone else’s production, they are not close to one half
of the guns [Brass Eagle is] making. They stimulate the public, and
it brings people to see our products too.” In retrospect that
statement was almost prophetic, as WGP and Brass Eagle are both now a part
of the K2 sports products conglomerate.
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