Since a plane crash took her husband's life, Waltraud Lenhart slowly has been stepping into the top leadership role at Leki. Now, just more than a year after Klaus Lenhart was killed, his widow will take on more responsibility in her position as CEO, which she's held for the past year.
Klaus Lenhart died a few days before his 57th birthday, and accepting the finality of the accident has been the biggest challenge for Waltraud Lenhart this past year, she said.
“In this situation, my kids, our friends and certainly Leki were of great importance for me,” Waltraud Lenhart said. “I am still stunned by the overwhelming support, loyalty and respect which I have experienced since then.”
While Waltraud Lenhart aims to keep her husband’s legacy alive, she said she plans to do so with her own flair.
"You cannot copy someone exactly. Everyone has his or her own style of leadership,” Waltraud Lenhart said. “We must continue to press forward; there is no stopping us."
Waltraud Lenhart cited her husband’s passion for quality and his enthusiasm for innovation as key areas of continuity. Though the company has had success with its Trigger glove-pole system for alpine skiing and the Smart Tip in its line of Nordic walking products, she called the wins, “a reason to be happy, but no reason to rest.”
Numerous offers to purchase the company have come onto the table since last year’s tragedy, but Waltraud Lenhart was determined to keep Leki a family business.
Klaus Lenhart’s father, Karl, founded Leki in 1948. Klaus Lenhart, along with his two siblings, managed the company until 1984 when he took it over with his wife Waltraud Lenhart.
For years, Waltraud Lenhart said, the couple had been discussing succession planning. Three years ago the couple’s son Markus Lenhart joined the company to “secure the success of the family-owned company.”
The Leki leadership around the world is pleased with the announcement of Waltraud Lenhart’s position as CEO, company officials said in a news release.
“While we all felt the gravity and heartache of losing Klaus, it is comforting to know that Waltraud is so dedicated to the keeping the Leki family together as we know it and moving forward in the honor of her husband,” Greg Wozer, vice president of Leki’s U.S. subsidiary, said in a news release. “Her leadership and enthusiasm is unstoppable and we will continue to move forward in a way that would make Klaus proud.”