For the Record: First Trade Union Bank adds yacht financing unit

First Trade Union Bank, with offices in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, has entered the yacht financing industry.

The bank appointed Jim Velez vice president and yacht program manager for the new yacht financing unit. He will be responsible for identifying and cultivating new customer relationships.

Velez has 29 years of experience in marine lending, most recently as vice president for yacht lending at KeyBank. He also served as president of First New England Financial, where he built a portfolio of yacht loans that included individual transactions up to $25 million.

"At a time when many lenders have exited the industry, First Trade will provide the yachting community with a new and much-needed source for consumer yacht loans," Velez said in a statement.

Tough times continue for manufacturers

The downturn in the marine industry continues, with six more companies reacting to the changing marketplace.

Neodesha, Kan.-based Cobalt Boats announced the layoff of 30 employees because of the poor economy.

"It is very difficult to see fellow associates leave our company. Our heart goes out to them," CEO Paxson St. Clair said in a statement. "But to be clear, our intention and expectation is not only to weather these challenging times, but to position our company to take advantage of a market rebound when it does occur."

St. Clair says Cobalt's sales are down 18 percent from the prior year.

Tiara Yachts is temporarily laying off 300 employees, director of marketing Dave Walsh told Soundings Trade Only in late February. The company says it expected to bring them back within 30 days. Approximately 100 employees were not affected by the layoffs.

Beneteau USA laid off 30 people at its Marion, S.C., plant because of a drop in sales, according to a report on SCNow.com. "We are confident that with our modest production plans for the balance of 2009 and a strong team of about 150 associates remaining at our Marion facility, Beneteau USA will be poised for the needed rebound of boat-buying confidence ...," Beneteau USA President Wayne L. Burdick said in a company report.

MasterCraft Boat Co. of Vonore, Tenn., laid off a third of its work force, reducing its number of employees to 200. This compares to about 570 employees a year ago, which was a record year for MasterCraft in terms of revenue and unit sales, according to president and CEO John Dorton.

Crownline Boats, which shut down production in December, is reportedly holding off on resuming production for another three months. The company originally planned to reopen in early March, but has decided to postpone production until June 1, according to local news reports.

Power cat builder Twin Vee, of Fort Pierce, Fla., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Court documents indicate Twin Vee has about $1.3 million in assets and more than $1.7 million in liabilities, which includes $746,849 for creditors holding secured claims, $21,329 for creditors holding unsecured priority claims, and $985,236 for creditors holding unsecured non-priority claims.

Turnout of 200 'amazes' organizer of tech expo

More than 200 marine technicians from 28 states attended this year's National Marine Service Expo, hosted by the Association of Marine Technicians.

The event, held Jan. 15-19 in Ormond Beach, Fla., featured technical training courses on a variety of subjects, from engines to electrical systems to fuels and fuel additives.

The panel included professionals from the industry's service community to discuss how marine businesses can survive in a down economy. Topics ranged from shop labor rates, budgeting and training funds, to inventory control, sales and service and market trends.

"The flow of information proved to be so positive that we are excited to add another panel discussion to next year's program for 2010," Amtech president Joe De Marco said in a statement.

"I was amazed at the number of technicians that attended NMSE this year during such a difficult time," De Marco added. "It just goes to prove that marine service is doing well and it's a key component to our industry's success, regardless of the economic conditions."

Boatbuilder to restructure R&D, marketing and sales

Latitude Industries says it is reorganizing the company to build shareholder value and help weather the recession.

The company will keep Latitude Powerboats as its wholly owned subsidiary, continue research and development on an entry-level line of boats, hire a public relations firm to increase market share and introduce the product to new markets and restructure and educate its sales team.

Latitude Industries was founded in December 1995. In 1998, a joint venture between Midnight Express and Navigator Powerboats, a subsidiary of Latitude Industries Inc., was founded to build the 39-foot and the 37-foot Wide Body Midnight Express.

This venture led to a government contract to build more than 40 Midnight Express 39-foot center consoles for U.S. Customs and Homeland Security to patrol the coast of the United States, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

S&P lowers BRP rating, keeps it on CreditWatch

Standard & Poor's lowered its rating on Bombardier Recreational Products in March.

BRP's long-term corporate credit rating was lowered to B- from B. S&P also lowered the rating on the company's $250 million (Canadian) senior secured revolving credit facility due 2011 to B+ from BB-. Finally, S&P lowered BRP's rating on the $790 million (U.S.) senior secured term loan B due 2013 to B- from B.

Standard & Poor's issues ratings from AAA, the highest, to D, which means payment is in default. S&P says all BRP ratings remain on CreditWatch with negative implications, where they were placed Nov. 24.

Boater's World parent files for bankruptcy

Ritz Camera Centers, which operates 130 Boater's World Marine Centers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware.

The 90-year-old company added the Boater's World chain in the late 1980s, and it "generated a positive cash flow through 2007," according to Ritz.

"In the spring of 2008, however, the price of oil skyrocketed, leading to a sharp rise in the price of gas and that, in turn with other macroeconomic factors, led to a sharp drop in the sales and profitability of the Boater's World business," chief restructuring officer and COO Marc Weinsweig said in court filings.

Weinsweig also cited a loss of revenue and profit margins from the diminution of the photo-finishing business as a cause for the Beltsville, Md.-based company's financial problems.

"Given the company's internal challenges, including unprofitable store leases and Boater's World losses coupled with the overall economic recession, the company had no choice but to seek relief under Chapter 11 ... to preserve the possibility of being able to restructure its business and financial affairs and continue as a going concern," he said in court documents.

Ritz plans to seek court permission to obtain $85 million of financing to keep operating while it restructures. Court papers show the company's 30 largest unsecured creditors without collateral backing their claims are owed about $65.6 million.

A year out of bankruptcy, Fawcett's in growth mode

Fawcett Boat Supplies emerged from bankruptcy protection a little more than a year ago, and the Annapolis, Md., company says it is looking for ways to grow its business.

In late December, Fawcett purchased the assets of Pyacht.com, an Internet-based marine supply company located in Eastport, Md.

"Our motivation was to give us a better, stronger e-commerce presence," says Fawcett president Steve Ripley. "We have a good brick-and-mortar business and they have a very good Web presence. And there's very little overlap in our customers."

Pyacht is the third marine business recently added to the Fawcett portfolio. Last year, Fawcett began a cooperative agreement with Chesapeake Marine Fasteners and, when the owner of that company retired, the business was transferred to Fawcett. Fawcett also became a dealer for Zodiac of North America last year.

Grand Banks Yachts launches new Web site

Boaters considering the purchase of a new Grand Banks can visit the builder's revamped site to view and compare models, including photos, equipment details and pricing information on yachts available for immediate delivery. Users can narrow their searches by model and by geography to find the model they want at the location closest to them.

All yachts are offered in partnership with Grand Banks' global network of authorized dealers. The online yacht listings include new models from each of the company's Heritage, Eastbay and Aleutian Series.

"We continue to see strong interest in our boats, despite what's going on in the industry and the economy," said David Hensel, director of brand and marketing at Grand Banks Yachts, in a statement.

"Given the sales we made during recent shows at Düsseldorf and Seattle, including the new 41EU, it's clear that buyers are active. We want to help them make smart decisions wherever we can, and this new online feature is part of that effort," he added.

Brunswick says program has saved dealers $5M

Brunswick dealers participating in the company's Dealer Advantage program have saved more than $5 million since its inception two years ago, according to the boat manufacturer.

"Supporting our dealers and protecting the overall health of the distribution network has always been a fundamental principle at Brunswick, and Brunswick Dealer Advantage is an important element of this strategy," Brunswick chairman and CEO Dustan McCoy said in a statement.

Dealer Advantage offers 28 benefits and service programs targeting three specific areas: enhancing the customer buying experience, attracting and retaining employees, and reducing costs.

More than half of Brunswick's 4,200 marine dealers are participating in one or more of the programs.

Yamaha signs supplier deal with Robalo

Yamaha Marine Group of Kennesaw, Ga., signed an agreement to become the exclusive supplier of outboard power to Robalo Boats, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Marine Products Corp. In addition, Yamaha will provide technical support designed to advance the boat company's future growth.

"Yamaha brings value to the relationship by providing a product our customers can count on," said Dave Sundin, Robalo marketing director, in a statement. "At the same time, its outboards are known for reliability, which is a great asset to our dealers and our customers."

This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue.


Liqui Moly Adds Defender as Distributor

The marine supplier picked up the German fuel additive manufacturer for U.S. distribution.

Good and Not-So-Good News

As Brunswick backs the Vamos A Pescar initiative to increase Hispanic fishing participation, invasive carp DNA has been detected in the Milwaukee River.

U.S. Powerboat Show Returns

Organizers reported more than 300 exhibitors and record attendance. The show “did not disappoint,” said one dealer.

Winnebago Commits to Net-Zero Emissions

The parent of Chris-Craft and Barletta joins U.N. Global Compact signatories aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.