Harley-Davidson boss Matt Levatich has just announced his is stepping down as the company experiences its biggest sales slide since the Global Financial Crisis.
In response to Levatich stepping down as CEO, president and board member, Harley shares jumped 4.9% on American markets.
Levatich took over in May 2015 and was pivotal in developing bold new strategies for the traditional brand, including:
- The LiveWire electric motorcycle;
- Heavy promotion of rider training;
- Combining the Dyna and Softail families;
- Opening factories in India and Thailand;
- Making small bikes in China,
- Fighting high tariffs in Trump’s trade wars; and
- Introducing water-cooled models.
We’re not sure if this announcement means the company no longer endorses these strategies.
“I am very fortunate to have spent many years with a company as revered as Harley-Davidson,” Levatich says.
“The grit and determination of the employees and dealers and their passion for bringing our brand of freedom to people around the world has always been inspiring.
“I am proud of what we have achieved during my time as CEO, in one of the most challenging periods in our history, and I am confident that the progress we have made on the More Roads plan will position Harley-Davidson for long-term success.”
HOG shares have fallen 46% since Levatich took charge and Harley bike sales in the US last year were the lowest in at least 16 years.
While in Australia last year, Levatich put some of the blame on motorcycle journalists.
The Board of Directors has appointed current Board member, German-born Jochen Zeitz, as Acting President, CEO and board chair.
A committee of the Board will be formed and an external search firm engaged to find a new CEO.
Levatich is expected to assist with the transition through the end of March.
Zeitz will remain chair when a new CEO is appointed and current chair Michael Cave is now presiding director.
“The Board and Matt mutually agreed that now is the time for new leadership at Harley-Davidson,” Zeitz says.
“Matt was instrumental in defining the More Roads to Harley-Davidson accelerated plan for growth, and we will look to new leadership to recharge our business. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Matt for his 26 years of service to Harley-Davidson. He has worked tirelessly to navigate the Company through a period of significant industry change while ensuring the preservation of one of the most iconic brands in the world.
“The Harley-Davidson Board and leadership team will continue to work closely together as we search for a new CEO. We have confidence that our combined leadership experience and deep understanding of Harley-Davidson will ensure an effective transition. As a passionate Board Member of Harley-Davidson, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and other Harley-Davidson stakeholders to advance and deliver the Company’s strategy and execution during this important time,” Zeitz says.
Zeitz has been a member of the Harley-Davidson Board of Directors since 2007 and established the Company’s Brand and Sustainability Committee.
He served as Chairman and CEO of the sporting goods company PUMA from 1993 to 2011. He was also PUMA’s CFO from 1993 to 2005. Zeitz served as a director of luxury goods company Kering (formerly PPR) from 2012 to 2016. He was a member of Kering’s Executive Committee and CEO of its Sport & Lifestyle division from 2010 to 2012. Zeitz is also a Board Member of the Cranemere Group Limited and is on the Board of The B Team which he co-founded with Sir Richard Branson.