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Keith Wandell Resignation Letter

The news was expected.

Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell, citing the pressure of obtaining a motorcycle endorsement and regularly commuting with “cagers”, today announced he is retiring at the relative young age of 60.

It’s through my privileged relations with some of the major actors of the motorcycle industry that allow this blog to offer you an exclusive first look of the resignation letter below:

Date: April 1, 2010
To: Harley-Davidson Employees
From: Office of the President and CEO, Mr. Keith Wandell
Subject: A Letter To My Colleagues

This morning I am announcing my intention to retire by the time of our next board meeting.

It has become clear that in light of the continuing leadership doubt, and the unprecedented level of negative attention about my compensation package, the company – and each of you – has had to endure, that the best thing I can do for you, our dealer network and our shareholders is to retire.

Some of you have done an extraordinary job serving our customers despite the almost daily media distraction.  I feel strongly that the attacks about my riding experience and eight month compensation package of $6.4 million are unjustified, but unfortunately, they show no signs of abating. A simple reality check tells me that people are spending more time reading about the acrimony and not enough time buying our motorcycles from the newly reduced product line up.

What matters is not what happens to me, but it’s really about the remaining employees of Harley-Davidson, our employed customers and our shareholders. The whole is greater than the sum of any 2 parts and clearly more important than me “feeling good about where we are” as a company.   Even in the midst of the first quarterly loss in 16 years, the HDFS liquidity freeze, the India expansion, the Buell distractions, the union worker delinquencies in PA., and the MV Augusta sell-off strategy… my main regret in this short, but well paid, tenure, is that I will not be here to realize the potential of this bold strategy to return the company to a “new” normal.

I will retire when my successor is appointed. The Board has begun a high profile and expensive search for a new CEO, led by the head of the Board’s Compensation, Management Development and Succession Committee. I, of course, will do everything I can to assist in this transition. I will make sure that the company firmly “stays the course” until my successor is chosen.

Let me say that it will not be easy for me to leave. I take enormous pride in obtaining my motorcycle endorsement and I’ve met a bunch of new lunch-time riding buddies.  It’s been said that the true test of a leader is the performance of the company he leaves behind. On that score, I feel my short, but well paid legacy and public record are available for all to read.  The Board has asked me to assure you of their full support as we go through the transition and into the future.

To some of you, I offer my heartfelt thanks for the extraordinary opportunity to work with and lead you during this short tenure that I’ve been in Milwaukee. Of course I will continue to see some of you in the H-D Brewers suite and have enormous faith that the best of Harley-Davidson will be lived in the days ahead.

Sincerely,
Keith “Scooter” Wandell
President and CEO, Harley-Davidson

Happy April Fool’s! Enjoy the day even with all the faux news.

Photo is courtesy of H-D.

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jim_ziemer1Harley-Davidson announced that Jim Ziemer (CEO) informed the board he will retire in 2009. 

A 40-year career that started by pushing a broom and running an elevator at Harley-Davidson at the age of 19.  He is one American CEO who started at the bottom.  However, Ziemer elects to retire at a time when the motorcycle company is grappling with a brutal economic climate and is selling fewer bikes while posting lower profits. The news comes on the heals of a loan advance of $500 Million made earlier today from it’s lenders.

Mr. Ziemer received compensation in 2007 valued at almost $4.1 million.  More salary information is available HERE.  Mr. Ziemer has been President and CEO of Harley since April 30, 2005 and served as VP and CFO from December 1990 to April 2005. He has been Director of Harley since December 2004 and Textron Inc., since March 1, 2007. He also served as President of The Harley-Davidson Foundation Inc. from 1993 to 2006.  Ziemer’s was named by President Bush to the Advisory Council for Trade Policy and Negotiations. He also served in the position of vice chair of Junior Achievement, membership on the campaign cabinet of the United Way and was a past committee chair post with the Next Door Foundation.

Mr. Ziemer met his wife, Yvonne during his Milwaukee High School graduation.  They had never met before that day and were seated next to each other. You can read much more about this interesting man and get a personal sense of his accomplishments and philosophy in the May 2008 University of Wisconsin commencement speech HERE (pdf).

Jim will be trading his worries and cares for the adventure of the open road.  Enjoy!

Photo courtesy University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

 

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