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Big Dog Seeking to Merge, Partner or Sale

Monday, December 14, 2009
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 investment@bdm.com  or phone 800.539.5729.

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Harpo -Big Dog Owner  September 5, 2010 01:10 PM
Man what a bunch of crap being written. I have an 07 Big Dog K-9 - my wife and I went out for a little 250 mile ride yesterday. She said it is more comfortable than my Harley Softail. Everywhere we go people want to look at my chopper and give me the thumbs up sign. Let Me repeat this choppers will never GO OUT OF STYLE - why, because there is one chopper for every 10,000 harleys or clonebikes on the rode - my bike stands out like a pearl in a sea of mud. Love and it rides awesome - so unless you have done the deed and ridden one please don't off your commentary.....
RP -I have a Big Dog  March 21, 2010 01:27 PM
I read through this entire page and there is alot of sandbagging going on. I have yet to see any of these claims of a bike being sold for 1/3 of the price. I check cycle trader often to see what is out there. I have a 2007 BIg DoG Bulldog. The main complaint I have with them as an owner is the electical system. I had my bike in due to inconsistent starting problems. Dealers don't seem to know what is going on. Think it is a circuit board for front control parts. They (BD)is revising the circuit board, don't know when it will be revised, so I just sit here and wait. That is crap. I started to shop around. Thinking about BIG BEAR and trying to gather enough unbiased info to make a decision. I can still trade my BD in for about what I paid for it used. I have people all around town stopping, racing to catch me to give me the thumbs up on the look of my ride. SO don't tell me they are out of style. Harley Davidson? Who cares. Look on any website. Looks like the same bike, very minor differences. Kudos to them for making their name a thing to be a part of but that is about it. They have absolutely nothing special to offer and I am still confused why the are around. I guess it helps the Attorneys and MD's feel a little edgy when they want to feel a little or a lot tougher than they are. Wouldn't pay half of what I paid for my BD for a Harley.
Dray-Big Dog Pitbull owner -Behind but trying  February 18, 2010 08:23 AM
I think Bigdog realizes that they need to make changes to stay afloat, the new bagger line is a good indication of that. Although they are pricey, if you buy a Harley and dress it up (most do) with custom wheels and all the chrome, upgrade the performance via all the stroker kits and heads, cams etc. then you have easily invested the dollars that you would spend on a Bigdog initally anyway. Bigdog gives guys that cant wrench a chance, after all when Bigdog started they were building bikes based on what the harley guys were doing to their bikes. What it comes down to is the person riding it, what he or she wants and likes and can afford. Its really no different than the sudden popularity of the bobbers and stripped down bare bones no frills "old school" bikes. When they became popular again the sale price went up, didnt cost more to build but there was a demand so naturally the price went up. In my opinion if Bigdog makes a few changes and adds a few basic models priced in the teens they could recover in no time at all. I like the fact that a hard working American started this business outta his garage and for that reason alone "American Made" I hope they survive ! Just my two cents worth !
Eric -Chris.... really?  January 26, 2010 07:54 AM
No guy that rides15,00+ mil are and cna wrench and weld would ever buy one? Really... I put 19,xxx miles on mine last year. I can wrench and have wrenched all my life. I've ridden all my life too. I bought my BD Mastiff because I love the look, always have. I love the ride. I love the bike. Not just a cookie cutter yuppie owned Harley. As for handling... handles wonderfully! Took about 2 days to get used to the bigger tire, but it lays over easier than you'd ever imagine and I can make a U on a normal size road... if it's a narrow road I'll have to make a 1 point turn, not a 5 point. I've got the 2008 Mastiff Limited Edition... all blacked out, no "bling". No parts will be coming off mine to improve a HD...
Terry -Dumb move  January 17, 2010 08:59 PM
Ok we all can agree BD bikes are cool. They got into a niche though that looks like its killing them. I was umm... kinda fortunate to get to test ride a new Honda Fury and even though its a Honda and far from Nostalgic it handled very well for the look and i could see possibly getting one as a daily rider. BD shoulda offered their bikes with more of an option (solid color, More traditional rake, slightly narrower back tire, standard build on an S&S) It woulda cut the cost for a bike like the coyote which is their entry bike (about 2k or more off the cost)and made it more of a daily rider where people would have not thought more about buying it. Instead your glam guys would just buy a new harley and your guys into modding would Go harley if they could afford it or metric
JaimeB -Thanks  December 16, 2009 06:45 PM
Hey, Woodman West-THANKS! Did not even know about these two builders. Their line-ups look terrific!!!
Woodman West -SPS BBC  December 16, 2009 05:17 AM
Sucker Punch Sallys and BrassBall Choppers are still building and growing. Right now folks are buying bobbers and baggers. BDM needs to change wit da times!!
JaimeB -Custom Bikes  December 15, 2009 08:02 PM
Bourget and Wild West are still around - does anyone have $40-50K burning a hole in their pockets?
There's still a few small shops around, but the big players are mostly gone - BDM may be next?
HardCoreBikerBabe -Why?  December 15, 2009 05:15 PM
Big Dog has refused to keep up with the times and pricing--they are stuck in the early 2000s and the "old-fashioned" choppers and regular pricing in the high 20s to 30s. I know some very good people that worked at BDM and were constantly butting heads with those in "control" about changing the direction on some of the bike designs to be geared more towards those that actually rode motorcycles and what they really wanted. I know BDM wanted to keep high end models but people don't have the disposable income to shell out the money for one of theses beasts. Another problem was that BDM never diversified with coming out with another brand that consisted of a less expensive model say in the teens that competed with other bikes that people could afford and not a bike built from surplus parts and slapping a $25k price tag on it. Sure the higherend bikes look nice and they ride well but they should have listened to what the customer wanted and was begging for, not what the egos of the BDM management wanted to build. The management of BDM got lost in the glitter of high profits of the chopper glory days and poor preparation of a rapidly sinking economy.
TT -Big Dog/Big Bear  December 15, 2009 03:49 PM
Big Dog should merge with Big Bear Choppers. There is not enough market share for Two expensive customs.
Indian is struggling, Orange County is exhausted.....
Will Viper make it?? Probably not...
Harley and Victory have deep pockets and will be around in 2011.
TG -Everyone has an opinion  December 14, 2009 07:37 PM
You all sure have a lot of negative things to say about a motorcycle you have never ridden and don't own. Especially "Chris". Sounds like the typical know-it-all Harley owner. I can't afford a Big Dog right now, but would buy one if I could. I test rode a Wolf at an open house and it blew the tires off of every Harley I've ever owned. The only thing I can say about Harleys is that they spend more time in the shop or in the garage torn into pieces than they do on the road. I've heard negative things about Big Dogs too, but not near as much as Harleys or any other custom bike brand.
Woodman West -Cheep!  December 14, 2009 07:19 PM
I see $40-$60K choppers in the local cycle trader for under $20K every week. Most with low miles. Any cash offer will be accepted! My buddy spent $31k on his and needed my trailer to get it to bikeweek, 60 miles away! If you happen to hit the starter without out pushing in the compression release it blue the starter clutch!

Ever drive a T bucket with a blown big block! Parade queens, built for the magazines.

If I buy one it will be to cut down into a bobber. (which are getting cheeper everyday also)at least they are rideable!
lou -bail out  December 14, 2009 04:56 PM
You mean they dont get a bail out as well!!!maybe the tuttles can help them ,i know they made big money up in New york!!
Tim B -Foresight  December 14, 2009 02:50 PM
Why didn't the Big Dog execs have it? The chopper fad comes and goes every so often. It always ends because people realize choppers are missing one very important aspect that motorcycle riders enjoy - good handling! The Big Dog execs should have seen this end coming as soon as the fad started.

You want to be successful? Make better bikes at a lower cost.
JD -Gone  December 14, 2009 02:05 PM
Bye bye now!
cj ahrens -big dog  December 14, 2009 01:36 PM
that niche market is over!! those kind of bikes are forsale CHEAP all over the country.big dog will go down like the rest that tried since the mid 90's
Chris -10ft choppers are dead!  December 14, 2009 01:06 PM
The chopper fad of 10ft bikes with beach ball rear tires has been waning ever since it started. First of all these bikes are very impractical to actually ride as they dont corner well at all with the extreme radius difference between the front(90mm wide) and rear tires (300mm wide). Second of all have you ever looked on Craigslist, there are lots of these "Garage jewelery" bikes for sale used at 1/3 of their original sale price. Most are several years old with a couple thousand miles on them, because you need to make a 5 point turn to pull a U-turn on a city street. Already some of these bikes are being scooped up to be disassembled for their engines,transmissions and accessories to be put in more traditional style bikes. Third, the chopper fad came along trying to mimic the "Outlaw" bikes of the past but ended up coming off as cartoonish rides preferred by yuppies with no technical ability thus this fad imploded quick amongst true bikers. No guy that rides 15,000+ mi a yr and can wrench and weld would ever buy one of these!
philamar -Big Dog  December 14, 2009 12:13 PM
Merge with Buell and you won't even need to change the motor.