Is a proxy battle at board-level about to engulf Harley-Davidson?

With Matt Lavatich stepping down his role as CEO at Harley-Davidson, pressure is mounting to find his replacement

Harley-Davidson Pan America

HARLEY-DAVIDSON faces a proxy fight as one of its investors, Impala Asset Management, looks to try and install their favoured applicants at the head of the board.

The news, being reported by both Reuters and Bizjournals, confirms that Impala, a 1.2% shareholder in H-D, has filed a proxy statement that claims that former CEO, Matt Levatich, was fired, shortly after the $2.8b hedge fund expressed concerns with the direction of the company.

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The statement from Impala reads:

“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 steady 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.

The two potential options put forward by Impala to supersede Levatich has rejected the two men, stating in a filing that they wouldn’t bring fresh skills to the role. Instead, Harley has placed Jochen Zeitz as interim CEO as of the 28th February.

In a statement to the media regarding Impala's intentions, Harley-Davidson asked shareholders to reject Impala’s intentions.

"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."