Mark Blackwell, Vice President, Special Projects, for Polaris Industries, announced his retirement plans this week. The 60-year-old’s duties will end in the first quarter of 2014, after which he’ll engage in selective professional and volunteer work in areas that do not compete with Polaris and its Victory and Indian subsidiaries.
But Blackwell is much more than just an executive suit. He first rose to prominence as one of America’s best motocross racers, first on a CZ and then, most famously, on Husqvarnas. In 1971, he earned the title of AMA 500c motocross champion. A debilitating eye injury while racing in Europe in 1972 eventually put an end to his on-track career in 1975, but Blackwell responded by working with Suzuki to develop its RM motocrossers and managing its race team from 1977 through early 1981, earning six championships and gaining Suzuki creditability in the marketplace.
Blackwell launched a new chapter in his life after earning a marketing degree (and later an MBA) and rejoining Husqvarna as its Product and Regional Sales Manager, eventually rising to the American VP of Marketing role. Later, he was part of the team tasked to transition Husqvarna under new Cagiva ownership, after which he quit the company.
Blackwell rejoined Suzuki in 1986, leading the marketing group and working his way up to the top American Executive in the Motorcycle, ATV & Marine Division. To broaden his experience base, Blackwell moved to Arctic Cat as Vice President, Sales & Marketing, and helped diversify the snowmobile company into watercraft & ATVs, more than tripling its revenue.
Then in 2000 Blackwell joined Polaris as General Manager for its fledgling Victory brand, eventually finishing his role as VP of Motorcycles before moving into his current corporate position. Blackwell’s announcement this week also included a note that he won’t seek reelection as Chairman of the Board of the Motorcycle Industry Council when his term ends early next year.
“My time and work with Polaris have been the best of my life,” said Blackwell in a personalized letter to industry colleagues, “And I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given and the support I received. Clearly, Polaris is a great company with an outstanding board of directors, senior leadership team and employees. I firmly believe that the alignment of ownership and incentives combined with the corporate culture are among the best of any company in the world.”
Blackwell was part of three teams which developed the strategies for bringing Polaris and its powersports brands into the future.
“The strategic plan that was crafted six years ago has served the company well and helped provide a solid road map through a CEO succession, the Global Financial Crisis and the most remarkable growth in Polaris’ history,” said Blackwell, a member of the AMA’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame since 2000.
“Our new CEO Scott Wine and President/COO Bennett Morgan have worked together as a team and done an amazing job leading Polaris through a tumultuous period and into the very bright future that lies ahead for Polaris. I have and will continue to keep a significant portion of my family’s investments in Polaris Industries because I believe so much in the company, the direction and the team. The pipeline of new products and plans for the future are very bright.”
Going forward, Blackwell says he’s happy to again be living in Southern California and reconnecting with friends and family. Blackwell says he’s grateful that he can spend more time with his college-aged son Brett and his wife, Patti. “And more time riding,” he adds.
‘Patti and I also plan to take a number of trips that we have been dreaming of for many years,” Blackwell commented. “I am excited about this next chapter of life!”