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Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles Founder Publishes Book On Rise and Fall Of Dream Company

ST.PAUL, Minn., Aug. 14, 2003 -- One person's dream may not come true, but pursuit of that dream is filled with truths other dreamers can go to school on. That's why Dan Hanlon's book, tracing the rise and fall of Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles is a valuable guide for anyone attempting to turn a dream into a business.

RIDING THE AMERICAM DREAM, The Official Story of Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles, published in August, is Hanlon's account of what worked -- and what didn't -- in an eight-year attempt to build the only independent American motorcycle company in 75 years.

Hanlon writes like he talks -- direct, with an attitude. "The book chronicles the good, bad and ugly," says Hanlon. "As an independent proprietary original equipment motorcycle manufacturer, we had progressed farther than anyone in over a half-century. It wasn't far enough."

From 1993-2000, Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles acquired rights to the legendary Excelsior and Henderson names, completed an IPO while raising nearly $100 million, generated revenue of over $30 million by putting $18,000 motorcycles on the road, built a national dealer network -- and filed chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The business plan concentrated primarily on competing with Harley- Davidson. The two had competed in the early 1900s. Hanlon believed they could compete again.

"We were using some of the same marketing and branding they were," Hanlon states in a chapter entitled Road Warriors: How Guerillas Meet Gorillas. Harley-Davidson was the "gorilla. We had to be guerillas." Ultimately, Harley- Davidson encouraged its independent dealers not to carry Excelsior-Henderson, a move Hanlon maintains made it unusually difficult to attract and retain its dealers.

Hanlon says he hopes what he learned about teamwork, company culture, financing, family involvement, moving from prototype to production and working with media will help readers live their own dream. "A sense of hope, mixed with a focus on reaching specific milestones that would keep us alive to fight another day made us go as far as we did. No matter what happened, we can still dream, and the dream is not over. Dreams never die."

The 401-page RIDING THE AMERICAN DREAM has been selected as a business textbook in the Graduate School of Business at the University of St. Thomas, in Minneapolis. It is available for purchase on the Internet at or by calling Union Hill Press at 800-584-0886. Purchase price is $32.95, plus $4.95 for shipping and handling.