The Columbia Sportswear Company, designer and manufacturer of active outdoor apparel and footwear, announced today the official launch of its Sorel division and the lineup of Sorel footwear for Fall 2001.

The ew product line will be available in some areas as early as June 2001.

The company also announced that it had appointed Bill Berta as general manager of the Sorel division. Berta was named interim general manager in October 2000, and he will now exclusively manage product direction for the Sorel brand.

Berta joined Columbia Sportswear in 1996 as manager of footwear sales for the United States, and has helped propel the dramatic growth of Columbia's footwear business. Prior to joining Columbia, Berta worked for Wolverine as key account manager and was the national sales manager for Hi-Tech Sports.

Tim Boyle, Columbia's president and chief executive officer said: "Bill has played a vital role in the integration of the Sorel brand into Columbia's existing operations. His expertise will be a key element to the successful growth of our Sorel business."

Columbia acquired the Sorel trademark rights, associated brand names and other related intellectual property rights for approximately $8m in cash during the bankruptcy proceedings involving William H. Kaufman Inc. The transaction was closed on September 22, 2000.

"The Sorel brand is highly regarded by retailers and consumers throughout the world," Boyle said. "As a result of Kaufman's bankruptcy proceedings, production of Sorel footwear ceased in January 2000, so we are very enthusiastic about putting the most popular Sorel styles back on the shelf for Fall 2001."