In 2002, Peter Hurley was enjoying a successful career as an investment banker when he suffered a heart attack that nearly took his life. Following a quadruple bypass surgery, he knew it was time to place his life on a different track. He got serious about exercise and eventually developed a passion for cycling.
Fast-forward to 2006, when Hurley was contacted by a former merger-and-acquisition colleague. The colleague said he was seeking a buyer for the American Bicycle Group (ABG). Would Peter be interested in purchasing it?
Hurley was intrigued. ABG could be the vehicle for another life change – a chance to merge his passion for cycling with his business career. But there was just one problem. “Financially, the company was an absolute mess. It was hemorrhaging a lot of money. I was hesitant to invest because I knew my stress levels could go off the charts,” he recalls.
Unwilling to compromise his health and well-being, he prepared to decline the offer. Then, his fortune changed when a private equity group agreed to join him in the venture. “They were willing to put up a fair amount of money to go alongside of me, so that reduced my overall risk,” he recalls. “It was the only reason I did it.” He bought the company and moved from the Northeast to Chattanooga in 2007.
While the timing of his investment coincided perfectly with his growing involvement in triathlon, it didn’t come at a great time for the market. When the Great Recession arrived in 2008, Hurley’s private equity partners withdrew from the company. He was left with the ultimate business challenge, and once again, his stressful career threated to put his health at risk.
This time, though, he approached the challenge differently having learned life lessons through endurance sports. He moved forward in determination, drawing on his experience as a triathlete. “Once you enter into the world of triathlon, you learn daily how you can achieve your goals and work through your fear of failure. When you find yourself in the middle of the Tennessee River, gasping for breath, you settle down and continue to stroke.”
In the years that followed, he confidently navigated the company through its financial difficulties, confronting each challenge like another hill to climb, or mile to swim. Today, profitability is up and the company, which manufactures high-end titanium and carbon fiber bikes, is an IRONMAN partner. The company even helped bring the IRONMAN series to Chattanooga, and it recently moved to a new production facility just off Amnicola Highway.
Meanwhile, Hurley himself has become a veteran triathlon competitor, and has now competed in 40 events across the world. “I would say that triathlons have made me a better businessperson, a better boss, and a better husband.”