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Who Owns Harley-Davidson?

Harley Davidson

Harley-Davidson is one of the most notable names in the motorcycle industry. In considerable part, this is because it has been around since the early 20th century, meaning that it has had a lot of time to build up its brand.

Thanks to that, Harley-Davidson can be considered one of the most iconic American companies that can be found out there. For those who are unfamiliar, the origins of the company can be traced to William S. Harley and his friend Arthur Davidson starting work on a motor-bicycle in 1901.

Their eventual creation had some serious flaws but nonetheless served as a valuable learning experience, thus paving the way for the friends plus two of Davidson's brothers to start a true motorcycle manufacturer. By 1920, Harley-Davidson had become the biggest company of its kind in the entire world before taking a horrendous hit like every single one of its competitors in the Great Depression.

Major Damage but Survival

To get an idea of the extent of the damage, it had 21,000 sales in 1929, which fell to just 3,703 sales in 1933. Still, Harley-Davidson was able to survive the Great Depression. Something that was true for a total of just two American motorcycle manufacturers.

Since the Second World War, Harley-Davidson has seen both good times and bad times. However, its staying power can be seen in the fact that it is still around even though it is now on its second century of life.

Moreover, Harley-Davidson has long since spread beyond motorcycles into everything from apparel and accessories to toys and home decor, which has been made possible by its remarkable brand power.

Who Owns Harley-Davidson in the Present Time?

Under these circumstances, it is natural for people to wonder about the ownership of Harley-Davidson, particularly since it is something that has changed more than once over the course of its existence. Fortunately, this is a simple question with a simple answer.

After all, Harley-Davidson is currently a public company A public company is a kind of corporation. This means a kind of business that possesses a legal existence that is separate from its owners, who are recognized as owners because of their possession of the corporation's stock shares.

Public companies have their stock shares owned by shareholders out in the general public. Something made possible by the free trade of those stock shares on stock exchanges as well as over-the-counter markets.

There are Multiple Owners

In other words, Harley-Davidson has a lot of owners because it has a lot of shareholders. Of course, it is important to note that some shareholders are more important than others when it comes to corporations.

After all, more shares mean more say over a number of important matters, though most shareholders will remain separate from the actual day-to-day running of corporations.

In any case, the biggest of the shareholders for Harley-Davidson are well-known. As of November 24 of 2021, the five biggest shareholders are Boston Partners Global Investors, the Vanguard Group, BlackRock Fund Advisors, H Partners Management, and Beutel, Goodman & Co. Out of these, Beutel, Goodman & Co. owns the least with 4.54 percent of outstanding shares, which is quite a bit less than the others than have more than 7 to a bit less than 9 percent each.

Still, every single one of these entities own hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Harley-Davidson stock, which makes sense because the company has a market capitalization of close to $6 billion.

What Are Some of the Other Entities that Harley-Davidson Has Been Owned By?

As mentioned earlier, Harley-Davidson has seen more than one ownership change over the course of its existence. Initially, it was owned by its founders, which the result that it was eventually owned by its founders' families. Later, Harley-Davidson went public in 1965.

However, the company soon started to struggle, so much so that it started looking for either a merger or a buy-out. Eventually, it merged with American Machine and Foundry (AMF) in 1969. People might be unfamiliar with that name.

If so, they should know that AMF met with its own difficulties in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of aging facilities, quality control problems, and an extremely diversified portfolio of products that was a struggle to manage.

As such, it sold off its assets before going defunct in 1985. In any case, that move enabled Harley-Davidson to survive through the 1970s. By the end of that decade, its leadership was starting to eye an exit, with the result that they made a successful offer to buy back the company that was completed in 1981.

Some people might have heard stories of Harley-Davidson being bought out by Kawasaki. If so, they should know that particular story started out as an April Fools' joke that has managed to reach a surprising number of people as well as survive for a surprising amount of time.

Further Considerations

Currently, Harley-Davidson is a public company. However, it is interesting to note that it is possible for a public company to become a private company through a process that is less regulated than the reverse. Essentially, a private group can approach the shareholders with an offer to buy their shares at a specific price per share.

If the offer is accepted by a majority of the shareholders, it will go through, with the result that the public company will become a private company because of the shares that have exchanged hands.

Such offers can be beneficial to the shareholders because interested parties tend to be willing to pay a premium for their shares for the purpose of convincing them to sell.

Of course, the issue with a public company becoming a private company is that a private group has to be prepared to pay a huge sum of money.

That kind of thing can happen, but this is one of the reasons that a public company becoming a private company is rarer than the reverse of a private company becoming a public company. As such, while it is possible that Harley-Davidson will wind up being owned by a private group at some point in the future, such occurrences are inherently difficult to predict.

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Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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