In 1980, Tony was sent to Ferndale to take over as plant manager. The Ferndale plant had been set up with the mission to serve the Pacific Northwest fishing industry. It was 35,000 square feet and employed about 35 people. Always willing to serve the company where they needed him, Tony returned to Shirley in 1985 to manage both plants. Then, in 1987, when the decision to consolidate the two plants was made, Tony returned to western Washington to set up and prepare the new company headquarters.
In the following years Tony advanced through the organization with several different positions such as Materials Manager, COO, was named company president in 2007, and assumed the role of CEO in 2013. In 2016, Tony completed his tenure at Samson with a year spent as Advisor to the new President and CEO, Andrea Sturm.
“Tony left a legacy at Samson and within the
cordage industry. He should be proud of his
achievements. It was a pleasure to work with
Tony by my side during my first year, both
because of his experience and knowledge of
the industry….and because he is a great person
to be with!”
Andrea Sturm—President & CEO, Samson
Evolution of the Samson Brand during the Bon Tenure
Since joining the Samson family in 1974, Tony has seen many changes. In 1976 the name was changed to Samson Ocean Systems, and two years later was acquired by Enserch. 1988 saw Samson Ocean Systems acquired by the management team. It was then that the modern era of Samson really began. The company was consolidated and the headquarters moved to Ferndale, Washington. The plant in Anniston, Alabama was expanded while engineering, test labs and large rope manufacturing came to Ferndale. 1993 saw the merging of Samson Ocean Systems, AMCO and Herzog Ropes into The American Group—the worldwide leader in the engineering and manufacture of high performance rope. In 2001 the company returned to its roots and was renamed Samson Rope Technologies.
Through all the changes, Samson has continuously advanced the state of the art in high-performance rope design and development. The opening of the Innovation Center in 2013—15,000 square feet devoted to research and development—is just the latest statement reinforcing Samson’s commitment to innovation, which has guided the organization since founder J.P. Tolman patented his improved switch braider in 1878.
Tony tells the story of Samson’s place in the Industry: Innovation leader
When Tony first started at the Shirley plant, he was fortunate to work with Ken Fogden, the Samson engineer who invented the double-braided rope. Introduced in 1957, it was a pivotal innovation that changed the industry. Synthetic fibers had overtaken the natural fibers that had dominated the cordage industry for generations, and the new double-braid construction made the most of the potential that nylon, polyester, and the olefins brought to the industry. This innovation cemented Samson’s already acknowledged industry leadership in both engineering and technology.
“We are an innovation leader. We pioneered double-braided synthetic ropes— replacing 3-strand ropes and natural fibers in a number of industries. We had established a track record of breaking new ground,” Tony said.
In the 1970s and 80s, Samson leveraged the knowledge and experience it had gained as an early innovator in synthetic fiber and pioneered the use of newly introduced high-performance fibers in cordage products. Pairing these new fibers—first aramids and then high modulus polyethylene (HMPE)—with a single-braid, 12-strand construction created a new industry standard that is still a top-performing product today.
“The business has grown beyond just products—the technology, the fibers and the constructions. The key components of the value proposition are all the extras we bring to the sale. The data we bring to the customer, the service programs we provide—all those things we call The Samson Advantage—that help the customer get real value from the product,” he noted. “It’s a dedicated focus on the customer-centric strategy, innovation and always making sure we’re walking the talk. We want to innovate not just in product but in everything we do—from lean manufacturing on the plant floor to service programs, even our marketing programs reflect that dedication.”