The road to hell is paved with dead motorcycle companies, and littered with others that despite charismatic leadership, fine product, mergers, venture capital infusions, bankruptcies and other forms of financial (rather than mechanical) engineering, have ended up in the ditch. Some have been saved, some reborn, but when it comes to Erik Buell Racing, all of the above have contributed to a long, wild ride towards a destination and an outcome still unknown.

Bruce_Belfer

Bruce Belfer, never says die.

Back in August, we brought you an exclusive face to face interview with Bruce Belfer, a smart, strong- willed Jersey Shore businessman/ engineer and motorcycle enthusiast who, shockingly, scooped up Erik Buell Racing’s assets at auction for $2.25 million, including machinery, tooling, trademarks, inventory, and I.P. His goal was to get the EBR house in order and quickly resume operations. Complicating the transaction was the participation of Hero MotoCorp, EBR’s original backer, who paid $2.8 million for Buell’s consulting business and certain other property. Turns out that the ‘other’ may not have been so ‘certain.’

At the time of the offer, Belfer posted on an EBR 1190 Owners Group’s Facebook page, “Yes. EBR lives. It reopens. It goes on. Thank you all for keeping the faith. More good news to follow…”

Since then, there has been little news of any sort, and much speculation. And now due to problems that stem from eleventh hour claims to assets that arose after the auction, but before the closing, Erik Buell Racing’s manufacturing assets will go back on the auction block in early December.

Belfer was recently quoted in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, stating, “In a nutshell, our right to close ended September 30. Hero’s right to claim against inventory ended October 6. No financing could be secured with an uncertain balance sheet.”

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Will we be seeing another Buell or EBR race team in the not too distant future?

Both parties are understandably tight-lipped on details, but it appears that there was a major gap between what Belfer and his financiers assumed they were buying, and what Hero felt they were entitled to take with them, and not enough visibility to nail things down before the clock ran out.

I spoke to Bruce again this week, and he was guarded, but unbowed. “The object remains to preserve and protect what’s left of EBR, so that we can restart production, get our employees back to work, and begin the healing of our dealer and customer relations.”

To do that, he will have to be the winning bidder on December 10th, and this time close the deal. Polaris and other companies were rumored bidders the first time around, but Belfer was the only guy who showed up on the Walworth County (Wisconsin) Circuit courthouse steps in July. “I am not certain if it will be just me against the liquidator this time around, or if anyone else will show up at auction,”
Bruce told me, “but rest assured, I’m going after it.”

I sensed that maintaining decorum through this ordeal has been occasionally challenging. Choosing his words carefully, Belfer says, “There are always roadblocks when doing a deal, it can be stressful to everyone involved, but this one… let’s just say it has been enormously and unnecessarily frustrating.”

Frustrating, yes, but not without some enlightenment that drives Belfer even harder towards his goal. “Over the last five months, I learned just how deep the love for EBR is. We’re being cheered on by dealers, riders, fans and the love for a unique motorcycle brand. You can’t buy that love, it’s been earned by Erik and his team.”

Despite all the love in the room, winning the second auction may be the easiest part of his quest. The dealer network, while generally supportive, will need some caressing. Dan Notte, Managing Member of Metuchen, New Jersey, multi-line dealer Cross Country Powersports, told me “What always made EBR distinct was Erik’s unique approach to the design of his homegrown sportbike. Unfortunately, as a dealer, we were not made aware of EBR’s demise until it was announced to the public, nor were any customers made aware. As far as our future with EBR, that will be determined if or when the new company is restarted.”

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Sounding eerily like a BSA dealer circa 1973, Notte added “there are enough NOS bikes in dealer inventory to part out and keep customers machines on the road for some time to come.”

EBR had over 130 workers at its peak, and a few remain to keep the embers of this once-bustling and innovative company glowing. And Belfer couldn’t be more appreciative of this. “I’ve been paying the core remaining eight or nine guys in East Troy out of my pocket since July. These fine people are innocent bystanders of this mess, they are the soul of the company, and I just don’t know how much more they can take.”

By now, some might think that Belfer has been smoking the drapes. He’s as confident a man as I’ve ever met, but why would he take another shot at such a quixotic, long shot endeavor? He was animated and blunt. “Not everyone is built like me. I’m not going to quit. I will secure my vision for an American motorcycle manufacturer, and I want it to be built on a revived EBR. I’m doing it for the riders, the dealers, and most of all Erik and the employees of this great company.”

mark-miller_EBR

We talked about how an EBR 1190RS, with American road racer Mark Miller aboard, was competing at this very moment at the Macau Grand Prix under the Team Splitlath banner, and how much racing heritage exists in the EBR brand. ‘That’s what I’m saying. Think about what Erik means to the motorcycle world, the odds he has overcome.’

He then added what might very well be emblazoned on a plaque at EBR headquarters someday, “There are three certainties in life. Death, taxes and Erik Buell and Bruce Belfer never quitting anything.”

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  • john phyyt

    I’m just an observer , BUT, if liquidator is unsure about “Exactly What” they are selling how can this auction process continue? It seems quite obvious to me that any sale will be subject to continuing litigation from Hero and perhaps other interested parties : You could be simply throwing money away; Crazy!

    • Hughlysses

      The Receiver is NOW certain of what they’re selling. Hero signed away all claims as part of their deal for $2.8M for the consulting business.

  • DickRuble

    “paid $2.8 million for Buell’s consulting business and certain other property”.. no he didn’t pay… he bid $2.8 million. With Hero in the mix.. it’s no surprise really.. they will throw in every monkey wrench they can find. Rooting for Belfer on Dec 10.

    • Andrew Capone

      Belfer bid $2.2M and won the brand and production assets. Hero won, separately, the consulting business and other components for $2.8m. Separate deals, but with some unfortunate overlap.

      • DickRuble

        Mea culpa.. read every other line..

  • Ducati Kid

    This saga continues –

    Fiscally far too complicated for me with too many twists and turns.

    The bike can be fixed but consumer, dealer and media interest remains fluid.

    Until then a ‘?’ 1190 SX variant with input for consumers …

    Notice – the Twin Spar Frame is polished with combination ‘RX-SX’ Nose and Exhaust

    • DickRuble

      Do you do this for fun or is this your job? Either way, find another hobby or a job you’re good at.

      • Ducati Kid

        Gentleman,

        Show me anything different!

        Easy to demean others while sitting at your computer bemoaning results.

        What you see depicted is ‘parts bin engineering’ applied to a standard EBR 1190 SX with revisions suggested by owners of this product.

        Perhaps it’s the ‘Extend-Retract’ License Plate Holder or Integrated Turn Signals?

        P.F.I., T.F.S., or T.P.M.?

        Got it – Z.T.L. which Erik, and BREMBO, knows doesn’t work!

        Who do you think owns the Z.T.L. Patent?

        Not Erik but that Italian company ….

        • http://www.glassrestorationinc.com Stanton Barbas

          “Got it! A ‘Z.T.L.’ Brake which Erik, and BREMBO, knows doesn’t work!”

          I know from first hand racing experience that the ZTL(2) system works. The only issue that it has was heat dissipation, which Erik tried to fix with that radical air scoop fixed onto the front fork on the RX. I don’t know how well it worked, I never got around to purchasing an RX. But the braking power is on par with a traditional dual rotor setup, and weighs much less.

          • Ducati Kid

            SB,

            Might want to converse with journalist Steve Anderson regarding Z.T.L. Braking as his was the BUELL later EBR employee responsible for applicable Patents.

            Heat dissipation remains a Z.T.L. Brake issue …

    • VForce

      The Suzuki Gladius appreciates you making it look sexy by comparison.

  • Old MOron

    Thanks for the update, Andrew. I’d been wonder what became of Bruce’s ambition.

  • DHZ

    Love the Statement “The road to hell is paved with dead motorcycle companies, and littered
    with others that despite charismatic leadership, fine product, mergers,
    venture capital infusions, bankruptcies and other forms of financial
    (rather than mechanical) engineering, have ended up in the ditch”. I have been in this business since 1972. The ditch is just about filled up.

  • Bruce Wayne

    Mr. Belfer couldn’t scratch together 2.25 million dollars? As nice of a person and enthusiastic as Bruce Belfer might be, the fact that his pockets don’t appear to run very deep doesn’t endow me with confidence going forward. Erik Buell blew through millions of dollars attempting to field a sport bike and that’s with a head start he had from scavenging the remains of Buell. At this point, I believe EBR would be best served by an acquisition by Polaris or another large manufacturer with the deep pockets, dealer network and commitment to finally push Erik Buell across the finish line.

    • Andrew Capone

      My sense is that this is the kind of deal you want to spread the risk around, and having contingent financing in place is the norm. Significant working capital would need to be deployed immediately, so the bid was just the cover charge to get in…this deal takes many millions to get done and EBR up and running.

  • ADB

    And the EBR dealer here in North Georgia just announced they are retiring and closing their doors. They were going to wait things out as EBR restructured again, but are now dumping their 1190 inventory at under ten grand – $9,995. A bargain for a brand new bike.

  • dbc105

    I sure hope he can pull this off.