Sailing equipment maker Harken sold to employees

Harken Inc. sold its Pewaukee headquarters for $15 million in a sale-leaseback transaction.

Last updated on September 21st, 2020 at 02:31 pm

The shareholders of Pewaukee-based sailing equipment manufacturer Harken have sold the company to its employees, Peter Harken announced this week.

Founded in 1968 with the invention of the plastic recirculating ball bearing block, the company is now a leader in deck hardware, winches and hydraulics.

Harken said he and his late brother Olaf were approached “by lots of good people” over the years interested in buying the company.

“The way we decided was simple. We turned down every offer that didn’t present a brighter future for our people than we could create on our own,” Harken said.

He added that he, his brother and Art Mitchel tried to build a place where people could take chances and not be afraid to fail.

“What we might not have anticipated was how much the culture of this place means to its success,” Harken said. “More and more it’s our people who have made this place the leader it is. Today, we’re acknowledging an ownership change. It’s time for those who have worked with us to own Harken.”

Harken said that the company’s 400 worldwide employees “make this place great” and he has faith in the current leadership team.

“To our customers and collaborators: Take nothing about this news based on faith,” Harken said. “These corporate announcements always sound like snow jobs. So, don’t believe anything about this based on anything I or anyone else says. Just keep checking out Harken products and buy from us until the second you find someone who can do it better—we won’t forget how to compete.”

Bill Goggins, chief executive officer of Harken, said it would “always be Peter and Olaf Harken’s company, but starting today, it is in our care and custody.”

“We have been preparing for a day like this for our whole careers,” Goggins said.

Peter Harken will stay with the company, joking in an announcement video that he now had to come in on time.

“I’ll keep coming in because I want to,” he said. “I like being with the people here…to see what’s going on every day, contributing where I can, and serving as a communication and sales ambassador in the field.”

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for 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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