Victory Visionary Mark Blackwell Retires
By J. JOSHUA PLACA
Mark Blackwell, the inspired architect behind Victory’s surge to the forefront of factory custom cruisers, has retired from parent company Polaris to pursue other challenges.
Said Blackwell, “After more than thirteen years, I have retired from Polaris Industries. My time and work with Polaris have been the best of my life, and I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given and the support I received. Clearly, Polaris is a great company with an outstanding board of directors, senior leadership team and employees. I firmly believe that the alignment of ownership and incentives combined with the corporate culture are among the best of any company in the world.”
A former motocross champion, Blackwell’s tenure at Victory marked a complete revamping of the brand. Victory had been a moribund division of Polaris, a two-billion-dollar company known for snowmobiles; ATVs; for a time, personal watercraft; and then, “The New American Motorcycle Company.” But early Victorys were blocky, unimaginative and had problematic transmissions. The division did not act like it was part of a power sports giant; it churned out small numbers of units like a niche builder.
Blackwell was hired in 2001 to energize the fledgling motorcycle maker. He quickly infused a sense of style and purpose into Victory, shook up the staff from engineering to marketing, and applied his “hockey puck principle” to Victory’s long-term strategy. “The idea is not focus on where the puck is right now,” he would like to say, “but where it is going.” Blackwell scored with his factory custom concept, challenging Harley-Davidson at its own game. One of Blackwell’s successful market trajectory predictions was the emergence of the long-haul bikes. In 2007, Victory bet the company on its first bagger, the Vision, which was a quick success.
Blackwell will retain his financial interests in Polaris, a company he believes will continue to gain share in the power sports marketplace. He remains the chairman of the Motorcycle Industry Council, a trade organization that promotes motorcycling nationwide through mainstream and enthusiast outlets. Blackwell plans to step down from that post next year to focus on volunteer and consulting work.
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