Marrying the girl next door

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

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R.I. neighbors Hunt and Hinckley say the brands will retain autonomy in union of like-minded companies

Hunt Yachts hopes to take advantage of The Hinckley Company’s distribution and service reach after being acquired by parent company Scout Partners LLC.

“We should be able to push more volume through and break into new markets,” Hunt president Peter Van Lancker says. “They have a vested interest at this point to do that, so that’s a good thing. The first order of business is to take advantage of the low-hanging fruit with synergies in marketing, sales and service. They have a bigger distribution system, and they have a good presence in the industry.”

The two companies are next door to one another in Portsmouth, R.I., so from a culture standpoint the move makes sense, says Hinckley president Jim McManus. “We’re creating an atmosphere where people share the same values. We’ve had a number of Hunt employees who were former Hinckley employees. It’s really fun the way people work together under the umbrella of Scout Partners. Basically we work to help each other become more successful as companies.”

The two companies are looking to leverage marketing, service and sales opportunities for both brands, which will remain autonomous. “The brands are intended to be different and hit different markets,” Van Lancker says. “Initially there’s a great deal of autonomy. Essentially nothing has changed.”

hinckley2Hunt Yachts, which will operate under the name Hunt Yachts LLC, will continue building boats in Rhode Island, and Hinckley will continue building in Maine. Hunt’s 44, 52- and 68-footers will continue to be built in Taiwan.

McManus says the purchase was “totally consistent” with the rationale David Howe used in buying The Hinckley Company in 2010. Scout, a partnership between Howe and Peterson Capital LLC, was created specifically to work closely with U.S.-based companies that show long-term success potential. “They’re both New England brands, and David Howe developed an appreciation — I didn’t realize it — for Hunt as a young man,” Van Lancker says. “He understands what it is, understands its place in history, and he wants to support it.”

“What he saw was a great American brand that had a real opportunity to grow in a few different areas,” McManus says. “One is in new product. Second is geographic expansion by being able to bring the product to new markets. We just put a new sales director out on the West Coast, which has been awesome. We sold four boats out there in the last few months. To expand service was really his rationale. When the Hunt opportunity presented itself, we      really made a case for David that it offered all the same opportunities as Hinckley.”

Hunt has not made specific plans for new-product development but will be exploring that opportunity over time, Van Lancker says, adding that he won’t rush the process. “I always swim upstream, which is what you have to do to run a business like this,” he says. “I was always pursuing whatever opportunities there were. This one was actually over a lunch and someone said, ‘Hey, let’s raise that up the flagpole and see what happens.’ Then there was a long process of negotiations. That’s where the persistence and tenacity were needed. We’re going to be intelligent about it and develop plans and execute them well. That’s where the rubber meets the road.”

The company will maintain its relationship with C. Raymond Hunt Associates as the exclusive designer of its powerboats, which range from 25 to 68 feet. “We see the Hunt product line as more complementary than competitive with the Hinckley product line,” McManus says. “In terms of size, there is some overlap, but given relative price points there are still some differentiations. There is definitely product opportunity with Hunt, there is a geographic expansion opportunity in bringing the brand to new markets, and there is also an opportunity to expand service by offering Hunt owners service through the Hinckley service yards.

“If you think about two brands that really make sense together, it’s Hunt and Hinckley. Both have extraordinary heritages,” McManus says.

“I couldn’t have designed a more ideal scenario for us,” Van Lancker says. “We should be good siblings, and Scout understands the business and is committed to the business.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue.

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