Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Jochen Zeitz Confirmed as Permanent Harley-Davidson President/CEO

Jochen Zeitz Confirmed as Permanent Harley President/CEO
Well, just eight weeks ago Harley-Davidson said that the decision to appoint Jochen Zeitz as Acting President/CEO to replace Matt Levatich was a temporary one, and they were not joking!

The company has now confirmed that Jochen Zeitz' temporary appointment has now been made permanent - just in time to head off speculation and pressure at the upcoming Annual Meeting and in response, no doubt, to investor calls for uncertainty to be eliminated and at a time when conducting a meaningful executive search would no doubt have proven challenging.

Zeitz will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board, and as previously disclosed, Thomas Linebarger, an independent member of Harley-Davidson's Board of Directors since 2008, has been appointed "Presiding Director". 

The uncertainty of going into a period of strategic revaluation with the identity of the CEO, who will be charged with delivering the new 'Rewire' of the ill-fated 'More Roads' strategic plan, did not sit well with Harley investors.
Following the release of its Q1 fiscals at the end of April, and the pretty strident (indeed damning) observations that Zeitz had about Harley's shortcomings, it was widely thought that concluding a new vision of Harley's strategic direction without a permanent CEO appointment in place could have put Harley in an unnecessarily destabilizing position from which to deliver on the 'Rewire'.

Linebarger is quoted as saying: "As the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and recovery persists, and given the significant changes that are needed at the company, solidifying Jochen as CEO demonstrates both the Board's confidence in him and Jochen's commitment to leading the company through this extraordinary time. 

"His two decades of experience as Chairman & CEO of a leading global company and brand, and his enthusiasm and determination to challenge everything about the company based on his turnaround experience, is exactly what we need right now to lead Harley-Davidson to long-term success. He has the unequivocal support of the Board." 

Prior to being named Chairman, Acting President and CEO in February, Zeitz was 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 PUMA for eighteen years from 1993 to 2011 and was also PUMA's CFO from 1993 to 2005.
Zeitz remained Chairman at PUMA after being appointed CEO of the Sport and Lifestyle division at French luxury goods company Kering (formerly PPR - Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent etc.) from 2011 to 2012 before serving on Kering's Board from 2012-2016.

Zeitz is quoted as saying: "In alignment with the Board, my decision to become the President and CEO of Harley-Davidson reflects my deep passion and commitment to this company. During this extraordinary time of crisis, my first priority is the well-being of our H-D community as I execute our COVID-19 response plan efforts to stabilize the business, resume operations and recover. 

"I am also leading a necessary and comprehensive overhaul of the company structure, operating model, and strategy as we adjust to the new post COVID-19 realities. Over the next few months, we will rewire the business and define a new 5-year strategic plan later this year. I will then oversee the implementation of these changes and reignite Harley-Davidson as one of the most revered and iconic brands in the world." 

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