As far as iconic motorcycle brands go, the big red X is at the top, at least in minds of many motorcyclists in North America.
Founded in the early part of the 20th century, Excelsior was the first brand to reach the 100 mph mark and later merged with bicycle maker Henderson to form what would become the third wheel in the motorcycle culture, behind Indian and Harley-Davidson.
The company closed in 1931 due in large part to the Great Depression, but the name and the nostalgia lived on.
Then in the early 90's, during the height of the "motorcycle boom" the X made a brief comeback.
A group of entrepreneurs in 1993, acquired the rights to both the Excelsior and Henderson names from previous owner Schwinn, and made a run for it. However, only 1,950 bikes were ever made and by 1999 the company filled for ‘reorganization under Chapter 11.
Now it's back from the graveyard of history.
Well, actually the owners of the brand are looking for a buyer. In truth, they may be hoping for one of the legacy brands to scoop up the trademarks and intellectual property as insurance to protect their market share in the future.
On Monday 13th February it was announced the the Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles marque was actively looking for buyers and that Aaron, Bell International – a mergers and acquisitions company based out of Denver, Colorado – had been appointed to facilitate the sale.
Ralph Bellizzi, Founder and President of Aaron said “An offering like this is extremely rare…An entrepreneur or investor can essentially pick up where the previous company left off, bypass the most difficult barriers to entry, and build upon the established success of this heritage-rich brand in a highly lucrative industry.”
“It’s literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
In hindsight, Harley-Davidson executives are probably kicking themselves daily for not buying the Indian brand back when it was in disarray, thereby robbing Polaris of the ability to resurrect an iconic brand which today is chipping away at Harley-Davidson's dominance in the big bike market.
While it's highly doubtful there exists an entrepreneur with enough gold or gonads to take on the tremendous risk of resurrecting Excelsior-Henderson, there is always that individual who believes the market is clamoring for another V-Twin cruiser, and may well risk his or her fortune in a Don Quixote style adventure.
It will be interesting to watch nonetheless.