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Trekking, ski and Nordic pole company Leki lost its owner and CEO Klaus Lenhart on Monday following his death in a plane crash.
Tuesday would have been Lenhart’s 57th birthday.
“Klaus was as hands on as you could get with the company, from design to production to sales and marketing, Leki USA Vice President Greg Wozer told Outside Business Journal. “He was so passionate about it.”
The Lenhart family released a statement of remembrance Wednesday (see below), but have yet to publish a succession plan. Business will continue, officials said.
Lenhart was accomplished pilot, flying in stunt competitions and gaining several German aerobatic titles. He took interest in helping other pilots train, Wozer said, and on Monday, Lenhart set out in his red and yellow, Leki-logoed stunt plane while guiding a younger pilot from the co-pilot’s seat. The plane experienced a mechanical failure and crashed, killing Lenhart and seriously injuring the pilot, according to reports.
“He was always trying to help out, making his plane available to others,” Wozer said. “That was classic Klaus.”
Wozer said Lenhart visited Leki’s wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary located near Buffalo, N.Y. at least twice, if not three or four times, a year. He also frequently attended the Outdoor Retailer and SIA tradeshows here.
Wozer said he expects Leki will commemorate Lenhart, and “whatever we do will be done with the blessing of his family. They are a very humble and understated group of people.” Business will continue without interruption to orders and delivery, he said.
“As hands on as Klaus was, he has a very strong team behind him,” Wozer said. “At this point, we all feel compelled to honor his passion and keep moving it forward.”
Lenhart’s father, Karl, founded Leki in 1948, naming the company after the first two letters in his last name and the first two letters of village it was founded in: Kirchheim, Germany. The elder Lenhart used his expertise as an aircraft mechanic and skier to create lighter, yet still strong, aluminum poles versus the standard steel poles available on the market at the time. Klaus took over the company with his wife Waltraud in 1984.
Copy of Wednesday’s statement from the Lenhart family:
Kirchheim/Teck – One of the most charismatic and successful people in the outdoor industry is dead. At the age of 56 the visionary Klaus Lenhart died in Kirchheim/Teck, Germany in a tragic air accident caused by mechanical failure. He leaves behind his wife and two adult children.
Driven by ingenuity, courage and energy he developed countless innovations and patents in the field of trekking poles, ski poles and glove systems. In the company founded by his parents, Klaus Lenhart served his apprenticeship as a toolmaker. At 19 years old he took over the management of the company together with his older sister (21 years old) and his brother (23 years old). In 1984 he took control of the company as sole managing director together with his wife, Waltraud, and set his goal to establish LEKI as a global technology and market leader. He was admired as a mentor and inspired all those who had the opportunity to meet him. Lenhart managed his company employing approximately 250 people with a great sense of responsibility. He put a very personal stamp on his company, which will be continued in his spirit. Klaus Lenhart’s passions, besides his family and company, were skiing and flying. In both sports he was very committed in encouraging new, young talent. He generously supported the disabled and those less fortunate.
The memorial will take place on May 9th, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. in the St. Martin’s Church in Kirchheim unter Teck. Please refrain from personal condolences – record books of condolence will be available in front of the church.