Industry mourns longtime Larson Boats president

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

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Longtime Larson Boats president and CEO Al Kuebelbeck died Jan. 16 after suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of cancer that affects the body’s ability to make platelets. He was 72.

Kuebelbeck retired in October after 42 years with 101-year-old Larson Boats. He had also served for a time at the helm of Crestliner Boats, another brand owned by the now-bankrupt Genmar Holdings, owned by Irwin Jacobs. Kuebelbeck continued with Larson Boats when Jacobs bought that company and several others out of bankruptcy in 2010.

Jacobs said he met Kuebelbeck on his first day in the boat business 39 years ago.

“Al, and I say this in a complimentary way, he was old-school. I’m old-school, too. I come from the same world,” Jacobs told Trade Only Today.

“When I started with him, he was running the factory up at Larson,” Jacobs said. “It was sometime after that we purchased Crestliner. He took that company from a $10 million to a $100 million company. He didn’t do it himself, you understand, but he was a part of it and that was one of the companies we sold to Brunswick for $200 million.”

After Genmar’s sale of Crestliner, Lowe and Lund to Brunswick Corp. in 2004, Kuebelbeck returned to Larson Boats — the umbrella company for the Larson, Triumph and Seaswirl Striper brands — and continued through the 2009 bankruptcy, Jacobs said. “This was something that Al obviously relished. He was committed. He was either totally committed or not committed at all. And if he was not, you knew it.”

Kuebelbeck had been with the company so long that he knew everyone there, and he garnered a lot of loyalty that he reciprocated, Jacobs said.

“He was totally loyal and passionate,” Jacobs said. “He was loyal to employees, to the brand, to the city [of Little Falls, Minn.], to me, to the vendors. Al wore it on his shirtsleeve — almost to a fault. Being so loyal to so many people, it’s hard to do sometimes.”

In an October 2012 interview with Soundings Trade Only, Kuebelbeck reflected on the recession and the toll it had taken on him. “The past three years have probably been the toughest three years that I’ve participated in this business,” he said at the time.

“We landed in bankruptcy in 2009 and we worked our way through and we’ve repositioned ourselves in the market. We didn’t sit on our laurels. We worked hard on developing new product that we feel is apropos for the market we’re dealing with and the generation we’re dealing with.”

True to Kuebelbeck’s loyal style, he also defended Jacobs, who had been criticized by some after Genmar’s bankruptcy, which resulted in subsequent “clawback” lawsuits seeking millions of dollars allegedly paid to insiders and Genmar subsidiaries prior to the company’s 2009 bankruptcy.

“Working with him is very rewarding,” Kuebelbeck told Trade Only. “I fully understand there are a lot of negatives out there, [but] most of the negatives out there — there isn’t much substance to it.”

After that story was published, Kuebelbeck called the reporter to extend thanks for giving him the opportunity to share his thoughts around the contentious situation and his boss.

Jacobs said Kuebelbeck had been ailing for the last two and a half years, but he never let on how sick he was. Finally they sat down one Sunday last fall, and Kuebelbeck confessed that he was having health challenges, but said he could push on with the company. Jacobs said he told Kuebelbeck that it was time for him to slow down and enjoy life, something his wife very much wanted him to do.

“It’s kind of sad because here Al retired, and he never got to enjoy life after retirement. It was a matter of months before he passed away,” Jacobs said. “He loved to garden, hunt, fish and be with his wife, kids and grandkids, and all of that went away. He never had the chance to do that. Less than 90 days later, he’s gone.”

Jacobs said he will attend Kuebelbeck’s funeral Saturday.

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Comments

9 comments on “Industry mourns longtime Larson Boats president

  1. Vic Weber

    Al Kuebelbeck is one in a million. Words cannot totally describe how good of man he was during the course of his life. I feel blessed to have known Al as a friend and comrade during my tenure in Minnesota. Rest in Peace my friend.

  2. Chris Kuebelbeck

    Thank you for the wonderful write up on my dad. I am the youngest of his 7 kids. We will miss him so much. I truly believe that he instilled in each one of us the strong work ethic that he had. We were taught that everyone counts! Even the janitor that cleans up after the day is done. Thank you again and God Bless!

  3. John Adams

    I got to know Al when I was with Genmar at another Division. From day one I knew the kind of man he was. Irwin described him well. What a kind, generous and loyal person. We have lost a good man. God bless you Al.

  4. Bruce Sargent

    I had the pleasure of knowing Al while he was the President of Crestliner and then got the opportunity to work for him after he became the President of Larson/Glastron. He was a good boss, a great family man, and even nicer person.

  5. Mario Aiello

    I am a new Dealer, to the Larson Boat Group Family. I only met Al once at the last Dealer Meeting. I can see that he will truly be missed, by his Family and his Larson Family.
    God Bless all of you.

  6. Dana Russikoff

    As a new supplier to Larson, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kuebelbeck at last year’s Dealer Meeting where we were warmly welcomed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones and the entire Larson family.

  7. Bill Pacey

    Great leaders lead and he was one of them. All the memories, direction and coaching offered by a true industry icon are now even more cherished. May his teachings find their way into everything touched going forward. Our thoughts and prayers are with you today.

  8. Marty Redmond

    I met Al way back before Crestliner, then again when he was running Crestliner. I was was a DSM at Lund Canada at the time. I remember Al as a straight shooter, he will be missed.

  9. Jonathan A. Hedburg,

    I went to school with Al’s oldest son Keith, he was as big as a white pine and stronger then oak. My sister Amy was best friends with Kim, his little girl. When the Kuebelbeck kids made their return to Little Falls, it was a homecoming for the High School.

    Al was ruff and tumble, and had the scares to prove it. Mr. Kuebelbeck was the type of guy that would fight for what he believed in, and got him the respect he earned.

    My Grandfather founded The Larson Boat Works. After He sold controlling shares, Grandpa met a higher level employee of Brunswick corporation pulling a boat and trailer out of the yard on a Sunday afternoon, and let him know in very plain English ” Boats were for selling not for using “.

    Growing up in Little Falls when Mr.Kuebelbeck was at the helm of the boat works, things were going to be good. If your heart or any part of your family was involved the boat building business, you knew there would be work the next day. Al Kuebelbeck made sure boats were for selling and using. I’m very sad to hear of his passing, and give my deepest sympathies to the Kuebelbeck family.

    Jonathan Hedburg,

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