Third-generation Solheim to lead Ping Japan

Generational hand-offs are never simple.

But Ping has fared well in passing the baton, and now the family company is ready to do it again: It recently named John K. Solheim – son of Ping chairman John A. Solheim and grandson of Ping founder Karsten Solheim – to the post of president and representative director of Ping Golf Japan, effective Jan. 1, 2011.

In his new position, John K., 36, will lead all aspects of Ping’s business in Japan, including operations, sales and marketing. He’ll also have additional responsibilities for the company’s activities throughout Asia.

The father of four has been Ping’s vice president of engineering since 2001. In that role, he oversaw all product development while managing a team of 60 engineers and research specialists. He’ll be formally introduced to the Japanese market during a press conference in early January.

“I’ve been preparing most of my work life for an opportunity like this,” said John K., whose appointment marks the first time a member of the Solheim family’s third generation has assumed the top leadership role at one of its companies.

Many family businesses, powered by the drive and ingenuity of their founders, enjoy ascensions before they disappear into oblivion. Under John A. Solheim’s leadership, Ping skillfully maneuvered the numerous pitfalls of succession, bucking the statistic that 90 percent of family-run businesses never see a third generation.

John K., the oldest of John A.’s three sons, first worked for Ping as a high school student in the company’s engineering department. Among his roles was working side-by-side with his grandfather, Karsten.

In recent years, the third generation has assumed a larger role at Ping, and they’ve been made plenty aware of an old maxim: The first generation creates the business; the second generation builds it; and the third generation ruins it.

“From as far back as my third grade teacher, I’ve heard that it’s usually the third generation that is the one that is known for blowing it,” said John K. in a 2007 interview.

Suffice it to say, he’s determined to prove it wrong.

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