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Frehner's Decision to Leave a Hard One

Published August 28, 2008

MONTREAL, Quebec (BRAIN)—Jeff Frehner said his decision to resign as president and chief executive officer of Cannondale Sports Group came down in large part to location.

The job required a move to Cannondale’s headquarters in Bethel, Connecticut from Frehner’s home in Madison, Wisconsin.

“I’ve been struggling. I’ve been working awful hard to try and keep up with all the travel and being required to be in that [Bethel] office. It was tough, so I gotta see what else is out there,” Frehner said.

Dorel appointed Frehner president of the Cannondale Sports Group when it bought Cannondale last February. Previously, he headed up Pacific Cycle, also owned by Dorel.

Rick Leckner, spokesperson for Dorel Industries, said Frehner’s departure is amicable.

“When Dorel bought Cannondale we made it very clear and have taken great pains to ensure people got the message that Dorel is only going to do the right things when it comes to the Cannondale brand. That’s why we set up the Cannondale Sports Group,” Leckner said.

Cannondale Sports Group also includes GT, Sugoi and IBD models of Mongoose and Schwinn. Pacific Cycle, the mass merchant division of Dorel’s recreation and leisure segment, runs from Madison.

“The two operations are completely separate. Because Jeff was the president of Pacific, his roots are there, that’s understandable. There was a required relocation, and after consultation with his family, the final decision was not [to relocate] and he handed in his resignation,” Leckner said.

Frehner will remain with the company until the end of September, but will not attend Eurobike next week. The announcement of Frehner’s departure just days before the start of the industry’s top international tradeshow was timed as such because Dorel felt it would be “less than transparent” to have Frehner at Eurobike knowing his time with the company was limited, or not have him there without explaining his absence, Leckner said.

Robert Baird Jr., who was appointed president of Dorel’s recreation and leisure segment last May, will oversee Cannondale Sports Group until Frehner’s successor is named. Baird, who was previously an executive with Philips Electronics, currently works out of the Bethel office.

“There’s a fantastic executive team in place. They won’t miss a beat with or without me,” he said, citing Cannondale’s strong organizational structure consisting of leaders in Bethel, Colorado and Europe.

Cannondale dealers don’t seem overly concerned with the brand’s direction in light of Frehner’s departure.

“Something similar happened at Specialized a few years back when there were a lot of people coming and going, and now it’s a strong company. When companies get bought this kind of thing happens so we will have to wait and see,” said Deena Breed, who co-owns Orange Cycles a longtime Cannondale dealer. “…I don’t think it will impact Cannondale that much, they have really impressive product right now.”

Frehner’s departure comes on the heels of the announcement that Matt Mannelly, the president and chief executive officer of Cannondale, would leave the company.

His departure, which was announced July 29, was unrelated to Frehner’s, Leckner said. When Dorel bought Cannondale back in February, it was agreed that Mannelly would stay on just through the transition, estimated to be about six months, Leckner said.

Leckner said Dorel would eventually select someone either from within the organization or externally to fill Frehner’s role.

“I think you have to take the time to get the right person, we don’t want to put a clock on it. It’s not a panic. Business has never been better for the division. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Leckner said.

Frehner said he doesn’t know yet what’s next for him.

“I really have no idea, but I love this industry. It’s in the blood I guess,” he said.

Frehner began his career in the bicycle industry in 1996 as an attorney and human resources director for Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minnesota. In 2002, he joined Pacific Cycle, and was named Pacific’s president and chief executive officer in January 2007.

—Nicole Formosa, Matt Wiebe

Topics associated with this article: People

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