T. Michael Pangburn, general counsel and secretary of Thor Motor Coach Inc. ()
Thor Industries Inc. is the parent company of subsidiaries that manufacture recreational vehicles, trailers and pop-up campers. These include Thor Motor Coach Inc.; Thor Livin’ Lite, which makes travel trailers and pop-up campers; Bison Horse Trailers, which makes horse trailers with attached living quarters for people who show horses; Dutchmen Manufacturing; and Airstream Inc., the iconic silver trailer.
Headquartered in Elkhart, Ind., Thor Industries has more than 8,500 employees and reported sales of $3.2 billion in 2013.
T. Michael Pangburn has been general counsel for Thor Motor Coach since 2007 and for Thor Livin’ Lite, Bison Horse Trailers and Airstream since 2013. He’s one of five attorneys in Thor Industries’ legal department. David Thomas represents Keystone RV Co., as well as Dutch­men Manufacturing Inc.; Penny Meyers represents the Heart­land and Crossroads subsidiaries.
The three report to Todd Woelfer, Thor Industries’ general counsel. He’s assisted by Andrew Namenye, who helps with acquisitions, corporate and real estate work.
Pangburn has built a roster of attorneys in every state who attend hearings and make arguments on Thor’s behalf. They tap Thor’s “brief bank,” a compilation of legal documents on issues the company regularly faces. Counsel ranges from solo practitioners to firms such as Nall & Miller in Atlanta. Pangburn uses Bowman and Brooke for products liability matters.
He sends warranty law cases to Dolenga & Dolenga in Farmington, Mich., and Summers & Shives in San Diego. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has been handling a Texas case.
About 80 percent of Pangburn’s work involves litigation, including products liability, commercial, “lemon law” and warranty disputes.
“Franchise law is a big area for R.V. companies because we sell to dealerships, and that relationship is governed by statutes in every state,” he said. “If it’s in Indiana, I try to do the litigation myself in the courtroom. In Indiana, corporations are not looked at so negatively. Especially in this area, we have a high amount of manufacturing — a lot of people are employed by manufacturers — so that helps us a little.”
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Pangburn earned his undergraduate degree at Wittenberg University. After graduating from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1986, he spent six months at an Indiana law firm before moving in-house to join the legal department of Coachmen Industries Inc. “Within the first year, I tried my first case in federal court,” he said. “If I was still in a law firm, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.”
Pangburn spent 12 years there, moving to Monaco Coach Corp. in Wakarusa, Ind., in 1998. He moved to Thor in 2007.
Pangburn’s wife, Donna, is a teacher. They live with daughter Madison, 17, in South Bend, Ind.’s historic district. Pangburn enjoys exercising daily, attending his daughter’s volleyball games and tackling home-improvement projects.
LAST BOOKS AND MOVIE
“Deadly Propensity” by Tim McDermott, a Florida attorney who is local counsel for Thor; and “Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage” by Joseph E. Persico. The last movie he saw was “12 Years A Slave.”