Acting label removed as Jochen Zeitz named president and CEO of Harley-Davidson

Jochen Zeitz
Jochen Zeitz

Last updated on May 8th, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Harley-Davidson Inc. announced Thursday it has removed the “acting” label from Jochen Zeitz’s title, making him chairman, president and chief executive officer of the company.

“As the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and recovery persists and given the significant changes that are needed at the company, solidifying Jochen as CEO demonstrates both the board’s confidence in him and Jochen’s commitment to leading the company through this extraordinary time,” said Thomas Linebarger, now presiding director of the Harley-Davidson board.

Zeitz had been acting president and CEO since former CEO Matt Levatich stepped down at the end of February. On the company’s most recent earnings call at the end of April, Zeitz declined to say if he was a candidate for the permanent role.

He did lay out plans to develop a new five-year strategic plan for the company called “The Rewire.” Zeitz said the company had become overly complex and leadership was isolated and overly centralized. He also said the company needed to set achievable and realistic goals and “reignite our Harley-Davidson soul and culture.”

“In alignment with the board, my decision to become the president and CEO of Harley-Davidson reflects my deep passion and commitment to this company. During this extraordinary time of crisis my first priority is the well-being of our H-D community as I execute our COVID-19 response plan efforts to stabilize the business, resume operations and recover,” Zeitz said.

Zeitz has been a member of the Harley-Davidson board since 2007. He was also chairman and CEO of Puma from 1993 to 2011 and served as the company’s chief financial office from 1993 to 2005.

His original agreement to become acting CEO offered him a base salary of $2.5 million, a $3 million bonus if his employment continued until the installation of a new CEO and an initial $3 million equity award in restricted stock units that vested after one year.

As part of its response to COVID-19, Harley announced in mid-April that Zeitz and the company’s board would forgo cash compensation.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He spent also five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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