As the longtime leader of Mercury Racing, Fred Kiekhaefer—the brilliant, charismatic and sometimes goofy son of high-performance marine industry pioneer Carl Kiekhaefer—was a tough act to follow. So when Erik Christiansen, Fred’s remarkably talented, hand-groomed successor, picked up the general manager reins of the Fond du Lac, Wis., marine engine and accessories company upon his departure in 2012, Christiansen knew better than to even try.
The outgoing head of Mercury Racing (front row, far right) accomplished much—in his own low-key style—during his tenure at the high-performance marine engine giant.
“I wasn’t the same kind of guy as Fred,” said Christiansen, who departed Mercury Racing last week. “I don’t mind being the ‘guy at the microphone’ during public events—I can do it—but that’s not really me. I get a lot more enjoyment just watching the team succeed and making sure we all succeed together.”
As a Mercury Marine engineer integral to the development of the first Verado outboard engine unveiled in 2004, Christiansen spent his lunches sketching designs for a new stern-drive engine on napkins. Those doodles were the basis for what would become the first Mercury Racing quad-cam four-valve (QC4v) turbocharged engine, which was unveiled in 2010 in 1,350-hp form. A few years after the Verado debut, Christiansen transferred to Mercury Racing, where then-president Mercury Racing president “gently encouraged” him to get a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the prestigious Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University.