What Really Happened to Billabong? Shocking Revelations [2023]

person riding a surfboard on a body of water

If you’re a surfer, then you must have heard of Billabong, one of the most well-known surf brands globally. But the brand has seen some significant changes recently that left many of us wondering, “What happened to Billabong”? Our team of expert surfers did some digging, and we have some shocking revelations for you.

The Rise and Fall of Billabong

Billabong was founded in 1973 by Gordon Merchant, who started the brand in his home garage on the Gold Coast in Australia. However, the brand’s success saw it grow into a global surf industry giant that designs and sells surfwear and other related products.

Billabong was once a billion-dollar company with over 600 retail stores worldwide. But things looked bleak from mid-2010 as it became apparent that the company was experiencing considerable financial challenges. In 2012, Billabong’s share price plummeted from $15 to $1 due to massive debts, leading to speculation about the future of the brand.

Billabong’s Bankruptcy

black and white stripe shirt on vehicle window

After 18 months of negotiations, in 2013, Billabong’s Board of Directors approved an AUS $380 million ($280 million) [1] bid from the American investment company, Oaktree Capital for controlling shares of the company.

This buyout landed Billabong in the hands of Oaktree Capital, which changed the direction of the company. With the change in ownership, the brand underwent some significant changes that changed its management and structure.

Billabong’s New Direction

Under Oaktree’s ownership, several measures were taken to turn the once-struggling brand around, including the following:


Oaktree-Capital led a push for massive restructuring across all areas of the business employing many cost-cutting measures. This saw the closure of many under-performing stores and a scaling back of the brand’s surf magazines. Oaktree also significantly reduced product offerings, designing and selling only the most popular items to increase profitability.

Management Changes

Billabong saw many changes in its management team, including a new CEO and CFO. These changes helped the brand navigate its way out of bankruptcy and towards the future.

Billabong’s Focus on Direct-to-Consumer

Billabong has found success in its recently adopted direct-to-consumer approach, selling surfwears and accessories through online platforms, including their website, in-house retail sites and their SurfStitch marketplace.


Billabong has entered into collaborations with sports and other clothing brands, including California-based skateboard clothing brand, RVCA.

Is Billabong Still a Brand?

The short answer is yes, Billabong is very much still a brand. The brand is doing well under its new direction and ownership’s leadership. Billabong may not have the same reach and scale it once enjoyed, but it is still a formidable force within the surf and leisurewear industry.

Who Took Over Billabong?

Oaktree Capital took over the brand, and they have played a crucial role in revitalizing the company. Today, many brands and companies they control over have seen significant improvements from their pre-Oaktree days.

Quick Tips and Facts

Here are some quick tips and facts about Billabong:


  • Great quality products
  • Trusted brand
  • Wide variety of products
  • Billabong supports sustainability-focused processes in all aspects of its operations
  • Billabong operates a Direct to Consumers model
  • Collaboration with other brands allows for a broader range of designs


  • Fewer product options than in the past
  • Price points may not suit some budgets

Interesting Facts

  • Billabong has had a famous fan in the form of Pro Skater Tony Hawk.
  • Many sports celebrities around the world have endorsed Billabong surfwear, including Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson, and Mark Occhilupo
  • Starting in 1984, Billabong sponsored surf competitions, including the Billabong Pipeline Masters, which takes place every December in Oahu, Hawaii.


Is Billabong a Luxury Brand?

No, Billabong is not a luxury brand. Its products are priced within a mid-range pricing category. Billabong’s price range on their website is roughly $10 – $100.

What Makes Billabong Stand Out?

Billabong has been able to carve a niche in the surf and leisurewear industry thanks to its focus on quality, variety, and sustainability. The brand has also been innovative in its direct-to-consumers model and collaboration efforts.


So, what really happened to Billabong? The brand experienced significant financial difficulty that led to its bankruptcy before being bought out by Oaktree Capital. The new owners turned things around with massive restructuring and a focus on direct-to-consumer sales. Billabong is still a trusted brand in the surf industry and continues to produce high-quality products.

Recently, Billabong has collaborated with other brands to widen its product line, showing it is not only a sustainable brand, but it can also still be inventive and draw inspiration from other industries. We would recommend trying out Billabong products for yourself, seeing the quality and reliability for yourself.


[1] Pattuelli, M. (2012). Billabong takeover bid ‘AUS$380m’ by Oaktree Capital. The Independent. [online]:

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