As Harley-Davidson looks to appoint a new Chief Executive Officer after Matt Levatich stepped down from the post last month, the board of the iconic American motorcycle brand is facing a potential proxy fight. One of Harley-Davidson's investors, called Impala Asset Management, is now looking to install two directors at America's best-known motorcycle brand. Impala, a 1.2 per cent shareholder in Harley-Davidson, has filed a proxy statement that claims that former CEO Levatich was fired shortly after Impala expressed concerns with the direction of the company.
According to the $2.8 billion hedge fund, "Impala approached the Board and advocated for the removal of then CEO Levatich and a modest refresh of the Board itself. We believed then, and still believe, that the Company underperformed its potential under Mr. Levatich and that the Board should have taken action on its own."
Impala blames the decline of the Harley-Davidson brand in recent years on poor marketing decisions, the move to close the Kansas City plant and the board reacting slowly to a changing market. Impala says in recent years, it had grown concerned about the leadership and strategic direction of Harley-Davidson. Two potential options put forward by Impala to supersede Levatic have been been rejected by Harley-Davidson. Instead, Harley has placed Jochen Zeitz as interim CEO.
"We believe the candidates proposed by Impala would not add additional skills or diversity to the board as their stated skill sets are already well-represented among our nine candidates. We are confident that we have the right leadership and the right strategy in place to continue creating value for shareholders and to achieve Harley-Davidson's long-term strategic objectives."
Impala has criticized the company for losing market share and the board for being slow fixing poor returns. It also pushed for ouster of former CEO Matt Levatich in January.