Thor co-founder steps down as executive chairman

Peter Orthwein

ELKHART — Thor Industries co-founder Peter Orthwein has informed the board of directors that he will step down as executive chairman at the company’s fiscal year end, July 31.

The company said it would announce its new chairman before the end of its fiscal year.

As part of the transition, the board named Orthwein chairman emeritus. The company said the transition was part of the board’s strategic succession plan and that Orthwein will remain an active member of the board.

“It has been a tremendous privilege to be part of Thor’s growth and to deliver results for our shareholders over the course of the last 39 years,” Orthwein said in a statement. “I am thankful to my colleagues at Thor and to the many people I have encountered in our great industry. As I transition [into my new role as Chairman Emeritus], I have great confidence in the future of Thor and our industry.”

Orthwein and Wade Thompson created Thor in 1980 with the acquisition of the then-struggling and unprofitable company Airstream. Driven by its strong record of performance, and its founders’ passionate appetite for growth, the company went public in 1984.

Since the company’s inception, Orthwein has acted as the primary architect of Thor’s strategic growth strategy. From its meager beginnings owning Airstream, a company that ultimately became the iconic brand in the RV industry, Thor and its shareholders have benefitted greatly from Orthwein’s guidance, the company said. Thor can boast profitability in each of its nearly 40 years of existence.

Orthwein has served the company in various roles including chief executive officer and chairman.

According to the company statement, the strategy employed by Orthwein and Thompson revolutionized an inefficient, fragmented industry.

“A true industry champion, Mr. Orthwein consistently exhibits great respect for Thor’s competitors and the industry’s leaders,” the company said. “A member of the industry’s Hall of Fame, Mr. Orthwein’s experience provides a unique and valuable understanding of the RV industry and its evolving market and he will continue to be an important, strategic member of the Board.

In a unified statement, Thor’s executive management team – consisting of CEO Bob Martin, Senior Vice President and CFO Colleen Zuhl , Senior Vice President and General Counsel Todd Woelfer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Administration Ken Julian – recognized Orthwein.

“Peter has been the heart and soul and architect of Thor’s growth strategy since its inception,” they said. “He was the central figure in establishing our team in 2012 when our sales were $3.3 billion and Net Before Tax earnings were $180 million. Today, Thor is a Fortune 500 company with revenue of $8.3 billion and Net Before Tax earnings of $633 million in Fiscal 2018, its most recently completed fiscal year. Since that fiscal year end, Thor has acquired one of Europe’s largest RV manufacturers, the Erwin Hymer Group in another acquisition in which Mr. Orthwein was instrumental. Today, Thor’s family of companies employs nearly 25,000 employee-partners across the US and Europe.

“Peter’s skillful mentorship, notable financial experience, and industry knowledge have been a guiding force behind Thor’s successful run, including our growth since we took over as a team in 2012 through our last ended Fiscal Year (2018), a period during which we have averaged 23 percent annual growth in both revenue and Net Income Before Tax. As Executive Chairman, he listened to and provided consistent invaluable guidance to our team. Importantly, anyone who knows Peter recognizes that in addition to his business acumen, he is an incredible person who is as modest and thoughtful of others as he is talented.

“There should be no misunderstanding of the value that Peter has driven to our Company for our Shareholders as it has, to this date, been immense. His continued role as a Board Member is incredibly important to us. He brings an industry experience driven point of view to our Board that no one else can, which will provide essential context as we move forward. We look forward to the next chapter with Peter playing an integral part of our continued success.”

Thor is the sole owner of operating subsidiaries that, combined, represent the world’s largest manufacturer of RVs.

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