April '19

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12 • RV PRO • April 2019 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S "a key leader and an incredible talent," according to Terlep's recollection. "I might add," says Terlep, "that it was always my understanding that Keith Corson also held Pete in very high regard." The 1980s and 1990s were "golden eras" for Coachmen as these managers led the company to new heights, achieving Fortune 500 status. "Over the years, I came to realize that one of the consis- tencies of our company was that we did not always do things right; however, we always strived to do the right thing. And the values and principles upon which our company was built were more than mere words written on a poster … there was a commitment to them," Terlep says. In June 1997, Terlep was named president of Coachmen RV. He reported directly to Tom Corson's daughter, Claire Corson Skinner, who had ascended to the top position of Coachmen Industries upon her father's retirement. The company faced challenges in the years that followed, including an attempted hostile takeover by Thor Industries, litigation involving the failed attempt to produce fold-down campers under the Coleman brand name, and by defective materials in some of its products. Skinner departed the company in August 2006. In November 2008, as the Great Recession deepened and Coachmen Industries shares traded as low at 57 cents a share (down from $20 a share a few years earlier), manage- ment decided to spin off the RV Group from its manufac- tured housing business as the company's fortunes faltered. In December, the company sold the RV group to Forest River for $42 million. At the time, Liegl offered Terlep a six-month contract to continue to run the RV company. Terlep has remained in that position ever since, growing the division to more than four times larger than it was at the time of the acquisition. Having helmed Coachmen through a number of ups and downs over the years, Terlep offers the following advice to future RV leaders: "Never lose sight of the value of people you manage, beware of excesses, and take care of the customer." "Coachmen was (and still is) a company very driven, while remaining extremely committed to its principles, integrity and values," Terlep says. "Because of its highly driven and fiercely competitive nature, it provided a great environment for learning and growing. Some of my greatest lessons and mentoring came from the people I worked alongside and to PHOTO BY STEVE TOEPP/ MIDWEST PHOTOGRAPHICS Starting at Coachmen in 1984, Terlep rose through the ranks over the years, ultimately becoming president of Coachmen RV Group. He is pictured here next to a Coachmen Mirada motorhome in this 2017 file photo.

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