In August 2017 German maker of coveted motorcycle products, Touratech, announced it had gone into insolvency. The official reason was a problem when opening its new €10M factory and warehouse in Niedereschach, close to its existing premises that left it unable to satisfy demand and eventually unable to pay its creditors. But coupled with this bad news was the reassurance that a new owner would be found as indeed it was. The motorcycle travel community around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.
But parallel to this story was the news, not quite so well-publicised, that its founder and its global face, Herbert Schwartz had been ousted from the company that he had founded, by its other directors. On April 1st 2018 Herbert posted a Youtube video of an English translation of an interview he carried out for a German travel magazine in which his anger and sense of betrayal about the whole affair is raw. The interviewer seems uncomfortable with getting to the point of asking about the bust up in the company. He does though, eventually, emphasise that Touratech and Herbert and wife Ramona Schwartz were synonymous and the public face of the company. Herbert explains that a software fault halted production and that they had over-diversified with a huge amount of products that no one wanted to buy. The board had conflicting views about how to proceed and he said this problem ‘pulled down the company’. He talks about having a personal liability for a huge debt. At the end of December 2017 it became apparent that Herbert had left because his email address had changed, says the interviewer. The new investor that came forward and saved the company did not want to continue working with Herbert so his contract was terminated. He tells how the administrator said that they did not need him any more ‘please hand over your keys and your phone and do not show up at the Christmas party’. His ‘baby’ of over thirty years has been taken from him, he says. ‘They could take my company from me but not my authenticity…’ The interviewer asks about any new projects and Herbert hints that he has something in mind and drops a few grandiose ideas but since then, three years later, nothing has emerged. Surprisingly, for such a prominent figure in motorcycle travel, the video has been little watched with just over 1000 views to date and just 14 likes.
In 2006 Herbert had met the woman, Ramona, who later became his wife and the two had two children quite quickly as he says in the interview. There must be tens of thousands of photographs of the two of them, and sometimes with their small children, dressed in Touratech garb and travelling the world. The catalogue from 2017-8 is full of them. But it was clear from Herbert and Ramona’s Facebook pages, soon after the company’s split that the two had also gone their separate ways. So 2018 was not a great year for them.
My motivation to write this has been a puzzlement that there is so little out there on any of this. Strange that a couple whose faces have launched a thousand motorcycle trips can just disappear from prominence with so little apparent interest. Also unknown is why the board and the new investor wanted rid of Herbert knowing that he was such a key figure for the company. I can only guess that he was difficult to work with, maybe never there to take responsibility, maybe with unrealistic ideas that had exasperated the others over the years. Perhaps we’ll never know.