With Impala Asset Management saying it will try and place two directors at Harley-Davidson Inc, America’s oldest and best-known motorcycle maker is facing a battle with one of its investors.
Impala Asset Management, run by Robert Bishop, which owns 1.9 million Harley shares, has nominated former auto industry executive Brent Dewar and Leo Hindery, Jr., who has public board experience, as directors to Harley’s nine member board.
In a filing, Harley has rejected the two men saying they would not bring fresh skills. Harley had declinined to settle with Impala when the hedge fund first approached it about the new nominations.
Impala has been critical of Harley’s performance, especially of it losing market share and of the board for being too slow to fix poor returns. Since January it has also pushed for the ouster of former CEO Matt Levatich from its board.
“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,” said Impala in a filing.
On February 28, Harley tapped long-time board member Jochen Zeitz as the company’s interim CEO.
Zeitz’s appointment came just days before U.S. President Donald Trump banned travel from Europe amid the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus that has sent markets reeling.
On Wednesday, in a statement Harley said, an employee in one of its manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin had tested positive for Wuhan coronavirus and that it would temporarily shut down the majority of its production at its facilities in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from March 18 through March 29.
Zeitz, a German passport holder, like other Harley executives, is working remotely and is communicating by video.
According to Harley’s spokeswoman, Zeitz is “in the process of moving to Milwaukee” where Harley is headquartered. She declined to offer more details.
Zeitz, a former CEO of German apparel and footwear maker Puma, has lead a push for sustainability at Harley and was a force behind Harley’s first production of its electric bike – The Live Wire.