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Archive for June 1st, 2021

I’ve reached the stage of life where any compliment I get about appearance or physicality is accompanied by “for your age!”

After indulging in that “rant” about China and not posting for a few weeks some wonder if I caught the “COVID.”  No, but I’ve been waist deep in the fine art of Harley-Davidson apathy, trying to get back on track… So, let’s talk about exec salaries and how the year+ of the pandemic “rained money”… and not the eco-dollar benefits of any ‘Green’ initiative.

First, let’s establish a baseline. According to “Google”, the average Harley-Davidson salary ranges from approximately $25,000 per year for a Parts Specialist to $133,555 per year for General Manager. Average Harley-Davidson hourly pay ranges from approximately $9.08 per hour for Automotive Detailer to $39.94 per hour for Tool Maker.

Now let’s double-click on the 2020 Harley-Davidson top executives compensation:

Harley-Davidson’s current chairman, president and CEO Jochen Zeitz’s total compensation was $9.4 million in 2020 — Remember way back in April 2020 when Harley-Davidson said that its then acting president and CEO Jochen Zeitz and the company’s board of directors would forgo any salary or cash compensations? They pushed out a news release with the typical “aren’t we great” statements along with how the rest of Harley-Davidson’s executive leadership would take one for the team and also see a 30% reduction in salaries and most salaried employees in the U.S. would see a 10%-20% salary reduction.

So, “forgoing” a salary and/or cash compensation REALLY means collecting $9.4 million!

Where do I sign up?

But wait, there’s more… 2020 was the same year in which the motor company also paid over $4.1 million in severance to former president and CEO Matt Levatich, a serial overconfident exec who created unambiguously bad managerial optimism, which resulted in over 20-quarters of financial loss. In addition, two other executives departed with the same illness, let’s call it Managerial Optimism Flu (MOF).

Specifically, Matt Levatich received a lump-sum severance payment of $2.15 million in 2020, according to the company’s April 9 proxy statement. In 2020, the company also paid Levatich $343,572 in salary and stock awards valued at $5.45 million. Levatich also saw a $653,000 increase in the value of his pension and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings that brought his total compensation in 2020 to $8.7 million, according to the proxy statement.

Mr. Zeitz was named to the CEO position in May 2020. So, for his eight (8) months as chairman, president and CEO, his total compensation of nearly $9.4 million was more than the $7.6 million Levatich received in all of 2019, which was Levatich’s last full year in the job. Zeitz’s salary in 2020 was $1.68 million compared to Levatich’s $1.08 million in 2019. Zeitz also was paid a $1 million bonus, stock awards valued at $5 million, non-equity incentive payments of $1.5 million and other compensation of $206,233.

I’m surprised that line workers didn’t shout from the roof-top that they would “forgo” any salary too!

A couple of other former executives who received large severance payments of note were former CFO John Olin and former senior vice president and COO Michelle Kumbier. Olin left the company in July 2020. He was paid a lump sum of $1.34 million, according to the proxy statement. For six (6) months of filling that position, he also received $374,421 in salary and stock awards valued at $1.75 million in 2020. Michelle Kumbier received a lump sum of $660,000, according to the proxy statement. You might recall that this payment was previously publicly embargoed then it was disclosed; described as a “settlement” after she threatened litigation connected to ‘unspecified events’ related to her departure in April 2020. For the four (4) months in her position, Kumbier was paid $223,385 in salary in 2020 and stock awards valued at $1.58 million.

According to this report; CEO compensation surged 14% in 2019 (most current data) to $21.3 million.  They now earn approximately 320 times as much as a typical worker.

It’s been widely documented how exorbitant CEO pay is and how it’s a major contributor to rising inequality in the U.S.  The Harley-Davidson payouts might sound like a big cash layout, because — well, it is!

Wait. Mr. Zeitz grabbed the handlebar, replacing the “More Roads” strategy with a hard-nosed approach he called “Hardwire” and what if he turns around the company you ask?  Well, that is exactly what shareholders and the board expect…until or unless he doesn’t then it will be the next exec firing. And another multimillion-dollar severance package paid to the outgoing Harley-Davidson CEO.

There’s that apathy thing creeping back in again.  Big payouts.  It’s routine. It’s a pattern.

Full Disclosure: I don’t own $HOG shares. That said, I do watch the stock and the brand’s activities very closely, as it is of course a massive presence in the motorcycle industry, and as of late, has had its struggles.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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