Harley-Davidson, acquired by American Machine and Foundry in 1969, was purchased back from AMF by a group of 13 Harley executives just 12 years later. Because of AMF’s support during those years, Harley was able to remain the leader in heavyweight motorcycle sales, despite the fiercest competition the foreign manufacturers could provide. Still, employees were excited by the new prospects as the company regained its independence. It is rare in America that a company has the opportunity to “un-merge,” to stand on its own after having been part of a larger organization. Following months of negotiation and scores of meetings with legal and financial experts, Harley-Davidson once again became an independent company. With around $75 million invested in securities and cash (including the officer’s own money), there was strong incentive to run the most efficient, responsive operation possible.
To commemorate the buy-back, approximately two dozen company officers, along with their wives and select motorcycle press, made a cross-country motorcycle trek from the production facilities in York, PA to Harley-Davidson’s main offices on Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. This 900-mile independence journey was also a ride to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association, now the official charity of HOG. The ride followed a host of ceremonies at York which included the signing of documents that marked the ownership change, and pulling the first “new Harley-Davidson” motorcycle off the assembly line. This 4-day celebration began a new chapter in the company’s exciting future.