A few years ago, three friends from Boulder started a shoe company called Crocs, created a worldwide fashion phenomenon, and made millions of dollars for themselves. Then the trouble began.
Boedecker's message didn't track with the characterizations I'd heard from former Crocs employees and gleaned from police reports, which portrayed Boedecker as volatile and unreliable—as someone who had, on occasion, arrived intoxicated to work and to company functions. As a chief executive, Boedecker was viewed skeptically. At times, he appeared disinterested in the company and in streamlining growing shipping problems, which by then had become widely known in the industry. "People were starting to think he was kind of a crazy guy," a former employee says. "They weren't sure that he knew what he was doing—whether he was in over his head."
In late 2004—not long after the incident in which he allegedly used racial slurs to refer to his former chauffeur—Boedecker stepped down as Crocs' CEO. In his place, the company promoted Ron Snyder, Duke Hanson's former roommate at the Dejected Man House; the longtime golfing buddy of all three founders had served as a company consultant and was already Crocs' president. If Boedecker was viewed as a powder keg whose impulsive personality would make it difficult for future investors to buy into the company's groovy image, Snyder was the buttoned-down, conservative-looking alternative, a businessman with an exemplary past and a vision for the shoemaker's future.
The company has depicted Boedecker's resignation as his idea, but his separation agreement from Crocs suggests the parting was less than amicable. While Boedecker would receive $600,000, in installments, through October of this year, and sole distributorship of Crocs in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Mexico, and at airport kiosks, he was prohibited from having an office at the company's headquarters. The separation agreement also prevents him from making disparaging public comments about the company.
A year and a half after he resigned as CEO, in May 2006, Boedecker abruptly quit the board of directors. Crocs lauded Boedecker's vision and said in a statement that the cofounder left the company "for personal reasons and did not resign because of a disagreement with our management or on any matter relating to our operations, policies, or practices." Today, when asked directly about Boedecker's departure, close friends and business associates adopt a surprisingly passive tone. "As I was told, it was his decision," Seamans says. "It is my understanding that George engineered that."
It was two days after his resignation from the board that Boedecker threatened to kill his former brother-in-law, Moorhead, who in turn told police that Boedecker had been forced from the company he'd cofounded.
Boedecker disappeared from public view—at least for a time—but he didn't stay out of trouble for long. In February 2007, during an evening downing Otokoyama Sake at Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar on Pearl Street, Boedecker started an argument with a patron at the bar, and then accused the man of stealing his $85,000 platinum-lined watch. According to the Boulder Police report, Boedecker was slurring his words, his eyes were bloodshot, and his breath smelled of alcohol. He told police that if he "did not have so much to lose," he would "beat the fuck" out of the man at the bar. "I will make sure he pays," Boedecker said. Then, in a rambling statement to officers, Boedecker said his uncle "Bobby" was an FBI agent who told him long ago that the man at the bar was a grifter. Police determined that the man had not stolen the watch. No charges were filed.
Boedecker's friends, while disturbed by his outbursts, nonetheless continue to defend him. "A lot of things get pushed out of proportion because of who he is and what he's done in the town," Hanson says. "George is an entrepreneurial free spirit. He's one of those guys who has a lot of charisma. We all know people like that who burn very bright. And I think he's probably made some decisions he regrets."
This spring, it appeared I'd finally get to meet Boedecker. Boedecker had written me and said he'd be in Boulder and available to talk on a Sunday in late March. Though that particular Sunday happened to be Easter, I agreed to meet him. We arranged to get together at 1 p.m. in downtown Boulder. He was noncommittal on a site. "Park and we will figure it out."
On Sunday, I drove to Boulder, parked on 14th Street, and called Boedecker. He answered after the third ring. He was at a sushi restaurant, waiting for his children, he said, and he gave me directions. ("I'm right down the street from you, just a couple of blocks.") I wandered downtown Boulder for 15 minutes, then called him back.
"George, I'm in Boulder, where are you?" I asked.
"I'm in Manhattan Beach," he said.
"We were supposed to meet today."
"Well, if you're going to be lost anywhere in America," Boedecker said, "I can't imagine a better place than Boulder."
Boedecker didn't give an excuse for why he was in California, and he didn't explain why he'd just told me he was down the street. He said he'd arrive in Boulder later that night. "I'll call you when I get in," he said. He didn't. Two days later, I phoned him. He answered in a deep, gravelly voice.
"I'm in Cabo, sick," he said. "I'll call you later." He hung up.
I never heard from George Boedecker Jr. again.