Twomey Retirement Ends An Era At Arctic Cat

Well, it looks like another big name in the history of the snowmobile market is stepping aside.

            This week, Arctic Cat CEO Christopher Twomey announced that he will be leaving the company he helped resurrect at the end of this year, bringing to an end a storied career.

            His successor is Claude Jordan, a man brought on a president and chief operating officer of the company two years ago. When that happened, there was immediate speculation about Twomey setting up his exit. It’s happening soon – Jordon takes the CEO title from Twomey on January 1.

I took this image of Chris Twomey in the mid 1990s. Neither one of us has aged since.

            Twomey is one of the good guys who most snowmobiles probably know nothing about. After it’s bankruptcy in 1981, Twomey was a part of the team that brought the Arctic Cat name back to the powersports industry in 1983, along with such legends as Bill Ness, Roger Skime, Ole Tweet, Brian Espeseth, Lowell Swenson, Dave Thompson, Edgar Hetteen and Bill Hahn, to name a few. An ad for the new company’s 1984 snowmobile product line teased, “The biggest news to hit the snowmobile industry since Arctic Cat went under,” then readers flipped the page to find an image of a launching El Tigre with the words: “THE CAT IS BACK.” It was a VERY welcome announcement for fans of the legendary Arctic Cat brand at the time, myself included.

            Twomey had an administrative role for the first three years, then took over the role of president and CEO of the company in 1986. Under his leadership, Arctic Cat has brought an unbelieveable amount of innovation to the snowmobile market while at the same time it also entered both the ATV and UTV market. The company also made a run at the personal watercraft market for awhile.

            In the press release announcing the move on Thursday, Twomey didn’t dwell on the past, focusing instead on praising his successor.

“During the past two years, Claude played a significant role in the company’s return to profitability, despite a recession that hit the power sports industry hard,” Twomey said. “His understanding, energy and passion for this business will serve Arctic Cat well.”

He may not want to look back, but we can. During his tenure, Twomey led Arctic Cat through an initial public offering in 1990, increased the number of employees from 99 to more than 1,300 people, and grew revenues from $7.5 million to more than $450 million in fiscal 2010. As much as anything, however, Twomey can be credited for keeping together much of that original crew that has been so vital to Arctic Cat in particular and the snowmobile industry in general.

Slowly, the names are turning over at Cat – just in the last year, the company has said goodbye to such stalwarts of Ole Tweet and Ron Ray, and now Twomey. I hope Chris enjoys his retirement, and I also hope he chains one of the last remaining old-school giants at the company, Roger Skime, to his desk. That’s a retirement I don’t want to see anytime soon!

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