Big Dog Seeking to Merge, Partner or Sale

December 14, 2009
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
Cruiser Editor |Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS

Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

Big Dog Motorcycles (BDM), one of the leaders in the factory-custom production motorcycle market for the last 15 years, is in need of financial lifeline after announcing it has

Big Dog Lead Graphic
Big Dog Motorcycles, producer of stretched-out, high-style factory-custom bikes, is looking for investors to throw it a financial lifeline.

hired the investment banking firm of William Blair & Company to “assist in evaluating a possible merger, strategic partnership or sale of Big Dog or its assets. Big Dog and its shareholders will also consider selling additional equity to add capital, other financing options or a recapitalization of the company.”
“During this process, Big Dog will continue to sell and develop our cutting-edge motorcycles, as well as service our dealers and consumers needs for warranty, additional parts, accessories and apparel. Given the unprecedented, difficult market conditions, I strongly believe that Big Dog needs to add other equity partners or transition to new ownership to continue to develop and build Big Dog’s innovative products and capitalize on the rebounding economy. I am excited to continue leading Big Dog during this transition and, hopefully, will be part of the team taking Big Dog to the next phase of its growth,” said Sheldon Coleman, founder and principal shareholder of Big Dog Motorcycles.

Two primary factors have hit the Wichita-based motorcycle manufacturer hard. One, it builds high-end bikes that range from $24,000 to $40,000. Most people are reluctant to shell out that type of cash right now and financiers aren’t eager to extend credit for a big luxury item like a factory-custom chopper. The second fact is that the popularity of the style of bike it produces is waning. The big-engined, fat-tired, super-stretched motorcycle fad is coming to the end of its cycle. More riders are chopping and bobbing and reinventing their own rides instead of spending dough on new ones. And the Big Dog image is so intertwined with this genre of bike that it would be challenging for the company to produce anything but nine-foot choppers and Pro Street motorcycles.

Big Dogs Sheldon Coleman provided a little insight on BDMs future while we lunched at Cooks Corner.
Sheldon Coleman: ‘Big Dog has been a consuming passion of mine for over fifteen years.  With over 25,000 bikes on the road, the company and its employees, dealers and suppliers have succeeded in building a business that started in my garage into the dominant motorcycle manufacturer in the premium, high performance sector of the motorcycle market.’

“We continue to invest in dynamic long-term strategies, such as international distribution, as well as new models designed to excite and expand our marketplace. Our dominant market share in our niche will propel the company’s success as the economy recovers, and I am looking forward to finding a capital source that will share Big Dog Motorcycle’s vision of a vibrant future,” Coleman added.

So who will be the Warren Buffett for Big Dog Motorcycles? Or is BDM headed the way of Buell? Whether you’re a fan of their motorcycles or not, it would be a sad day to see another American manufacturer closing its doors and more people on the unemployment line. And even though Coleman already had family money, he started Big Dog Motorcycles on his own out of his garage and grew what was a passion into a respected force in the industry that now has over 25,000 motorcycles in production.

Another potential blow against Big Dog looms in the impending loss of tax breaks as the Wichita City Council is set to approve a new economic incentive policy Tuesday. The new policy comes as a result of an increase in the number of companies that are failing to add jobs and expand at the rates they projected when the city gave them a break on property taxes. BDM met its initial obligations when it finished a new building and added 79 jobs when it projected that it would add 40. But then it laid off 221 workers during the recent economic downturn, according to a report in The Wichita Eagle.
In a closing statement, Coleman said, “At Big Dog Motorcycles, we have the finest suppliers, the most committed dealers and the most ardent consumers in our niche. As we seek new capital, we believe that Big Dog Motorcycles has yet to reach its full potential.”
Interested parties can direct their inquiries to  or phone 800.539.5729.