A plane crash took the lives of three key figures from Highland Motorcycles Saturday. Mats Malmberg, founder and managing director of the company, along with president Chase Bales and CFO Damian Riddoch were on a private aircraft returning from a business trip to Michigan when the crash occurred. The NTSB is currently investigating the accident, but speculation centers around fuel exhaustion.
Malmberg was a motorcycle racer who founded Highland over 10 years ago in Sweden. At that time, he purchased the V-twin Folan motor from the company that developed it, and then used it in a chassis of his own making. After a short period, Malmberg redesigned the motor until very little of the original remained. Shortly after that he developed a single-cylinder motor. Over the next few years, Highland built about 300 units, mostly sold in Sweden.
Two years ago Malmberg became partners with Bales, an Oklahoma businessman who specialized in corporate acquisition and finance. Bales was a motorcycle enthusiast, and the two of them moved the company to the outskirts of Tulsa. There, the plan was to develop motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-side utility vehicles and eventually produce them entirely in the U.S. The company also acquired Millennium, a northwestern research company that held patents in the electronics field. Highland currently employs over 30 people in a newly purchased facility in Glenpool, Oklahoma.
The next step for Highland is unclear at this point. Malmberg, Bales and Riddoch had a great relationship with us here at Hi-Torque and they will be missed. Condolences can be sent through the company’s website at www.ushighland.com
Malmberg (left) and Bales at the new Highland facility one day before the tragedy.