E-H … “Reborn to be Wild” Part Deux?
After bravely trying to bring the brand back in the 1990s in an attempt to exploit Harley’s production shortfall at that time, Don Hanlon’s purpose-built Belle Plaine, Minnesota based Excelsior-Henderson factory hit the buffers in 1999 and filed for bankruptcy in 2000, despite making what were regarded at the time some good bikes (dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder anybody?).
News has now emerged that Denver, Colorado based Aaron, Bell International (ABI), an “independent investment bank” and M&A advisor, has been hired to explore options for a phoenix of the Minnesota based manufacturer.
In a press release that raises as many questions as it answers, ABI founder and president Ralph Bellizzi said: “We look forward to working with Excelsior-Henderson during this exciting time in America, with the resurgence of manufacturing pride and interest in motorsports.”
The release went on to say that the “convergence of several market factors has created a unique opportunity to reignite the heritage-rich Excelsior-Henderson brand. Recent motorsports industry reconfiguration, with Polaris Industries ending production of Victory Motorcycles to focus on its historic Indian Motorcycles, and Arctic Cat’s sale to Textron, combined with the strength of American motorcycle manufacturing and sales worldwide, make the market ripe for the re-emergence of the venerable “E-H” marque.”
Regardless of just how accurate an interpretation of current market conditions and opportunities those statements are, the release goes on to say that “Excelsior-Henderson’s deep, rich heritage is what elevates this opportunity well beyond the ordinary. As one of the original “Big 3” OEM motorcycle manufacturers along with Harley-Davidson and Indian during the early decades of motorcycling, Excelsior-Henderson’s heritage includes owners Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, and a long list of ‘firsts,’ being the first motorcycle to circumnavigate the world and officially ‘clocked’ at over 100 mph, to engineering and design innovations until ceasing production by owner Ignatz Schwinn of Chicago during the Great Depression.” [Bicycle magnate Schwinn bought E-H in 1911, but then closed it in 1931].
“In the 1990s, that engineering and design legacy was painstakingly carried forward with the rebirth of the brand and the development of a proprietary new Super X motorcycle by the Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Company. The company produced nearly 2,000 motorcycles featuring dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, closed-loop fuel injection, integrated cassette transmissions, anti-dive suspensions, and more. Owners of the motorcycles today are just as fervent about the brand as on the day they rode them off dealers’ lots.
“Despite discontinuing production in late 1999, the business opportunity remains relatively turn-key due to its intellectual property and intensely loyal, active customer base.”
Bellizzi said it’s impossible to overstate the unique opportunity this presents. “An offering like this is extremely rare. An entrepreneur or investor can essentially pick up where the previous company left off, bypass the most difficult barriers to entry, and build upon the established success of this heritage-rich brand in a highly lucrative industry. It’s literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”