Harken: New owners, Same spirit
Published on September 17th, 2020
Since Scuttlebutt’s launch in 1997, we have formed many great industry friendships, and Harken is front and center. That’s what happens during long hours on bar stools, and nobody sets that pace like Peter Harken.
At work and at play, he is king, and his play time just got a bit longer as he announces the selling of the company to an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).
As one of the iconic companies in the history of sailing, founded by Peter and his brother Olaf in 1968, here is Peter’s announcement:
Throughout the years, Olaf and I have been approached by lots of good people interested in acquiring our business. 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.
We started this company to build the best sailing products we could at a fair price. We’ve had good success doing it and that makes us proud.
What we might not have anticipated was how much the culture of this place means to its success. My brother Olaf, Art Mitchel, and I tried to build a place where people could take chances and not be afraid to fail. 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.
I’ve got all the faith in the world in Bill Goggins, who is now CEO; Matt Malec, COO; and John Jensen, our CFO—along with the members of our Executive Committee made up of Andrea Merello, Managing Director at Harken Italy; Adriano Rubbinaccio, Director of Operations at Harken Italy; and Stefano Castagana, Director of Global HR.
These people we hired and developed have had their hands on the wheel for a while now, and I look forward to seeing them make their marks. I’ve always said the company is its people, and it’s all 400 worldwide that make this place great.
Three years ago when Harken turned 50, someone asked what we wanted Harken to be like when it turned 100. In 2067, we want it to be stronger than it is today. We hope it will still feel like Harken, but it needs to be doing more than we can even dream of today. This transaction is to help make that happen.
To our customers and collaborators: Take nothing about this news based on faith. 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.
As for me…I’m not going anywhere! While the terms of this acquisition allow me to pretty much do whatever I’d like (who are we kidding, I’ve been doing that for years!), I’ll keep coming in because I want to. 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.
To the new owners: Olaf would be very happy today. I wish he was here to see this. But as I told you the day he passed away: no screwing around, he’ll be watching. So will I. It’s your watch now. Let’s roll!
And now a word from the new owners:
Bill Goggins, Harken CEO, said, “We have been preparing for a day like this for our whole careers. We have so much gratitude for Peter, Olaf, and Art for the trust they have shown in all of us. Today we raise our glasses to Peter Harken, Olaf Harken’s family, Rose Sorensen, and Art Mitchel. This company will always owe so much to them as our founders. It will always be Peter & Olaf Harken’s company, but starting today, it is in our care and custody.”
Matt Malec, Harken COO, said, “Historically, Harken has been a place where big things happen in uncertain economic times. We invested in a majority of our production capacity and built our headquarters and major centers of production during the Great Recession of the early 2000s. We’ve had strategic acquisitions as part of our goals for the last several years. Today, in the middle of this challenging year, we completed our most significant acquisition thus far. We hope there will be more. But today, Harken bought Harken.”
John Jensen, Harken CFO, said, “Over the last several years, we’ve prepared the company financially for a transaction that would shift its ownership. As a finance person, I’m very pleased with what we’ve done. First as an employee, and now employee-owner, I’m even happier we found a way to assure that as we grow this company it will continue to live its values.”
Harken, Inc. is the creation of founders Peter and Olaf Harken. Started in 1968 with the invention of the plastic recirculating ball bearing block and development of Olympic Class sailboats, Harken today works hard to be the technological leader in deck hardware, winches, and hydraulics. Harken is the brand of choice for most leading America’s Cup syndicates, teams in The Ocean Race, Grand Prix champions, One Designs, and Olympic classes, through to the world’s most discerning designers and builders serving performance and bluewater cruising markets. Harken’s core strength in its historic niche is matched with opportunities for growth as it expands to offer a growing assortment of safety and rescue equipment and services from its Harken Industrial division, focusing on its core objective to become the world’s best in handling rope under load. Harken’s network includes distribution in 48 countries, with group offices located in Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Holland, and the United States. The company has factories in Pewaukee, WI USA and Limido Comasco, Italy.