MasterCraft owner buys Hydra-Sports

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MCBC Hydra Boats, which purchased Hydra-Sports in the Genmar bankruptcy proceedings for $1 million, is a subsidiary of the same company that owns MasterCraft Boat Co. Both brands are now owned by Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minneapolis-based investment firm.

"We started out with a real interest in Hydra-Sports from the beginning," says MasterCraft CEO John Dorton, who will hold the same position with Hydra-Sports. "It wasn't because it was a carve-out from the other packages. It's not the first time we've considered buying Hydra-Sports. In fact, we put a bid in back when it was in the OMC bankruptcy auction as well."

Hydra-Sports began building fiberglass fishing boats just outside Nashville, Tenn., in 1973 and was acquired by Genmar in 2001. "We just think it's a nice fit," says Dorton. "It's a very high-end product. It doesn't compete with our core line of MasterCraft. We have capacity in Vonore [Tenn.] at our plant."

The sale was scheduled to close Jan. 20 following a bankruptcy court's Jan. 13 approval of all bids for the Genmar assets (see story on Page 16). Dorton says the plan is to move Hydra-Sports' tooling and molds to the plant and begin production in late spring for the 2011 model year. The company had been producing boats on a "limited basis," Dorton says.

Hydra-Sports has a network of about 40 dealers - "healthy, viable dealers," Dorton says. "We're going to be very conscientious owners and work with the current Hydra-Sports dealer network and customer base to help them through any issues in the field and get into what hopefully will be a long- lasting relationship owning that brand for many years to come.

"We'll work with them to help clear up warranty issues," he says. "As you can imagine, we didn't profit any from the boats that were sold that are under the warranty population, so it will be partial participation, not full participation, and we're going to try to work with dealers to help create an environment where we can use future sales to help fund some of their past receivables."

The new owners are not legally responsible for money owed to vendors, dealers or customers by the previous owners. "We believe the vendors will have to work directly with Genmar on those claims," Dorton says. "We do intend to go back to the vendors that had been working with Hydra-Sports, set up new relationships, and give them an opportunity to move forward with MasterCraft."

Dorton says the company plans to bring in some Hydra-Sports staffers in the transition, and the acquisition will allow the hiring back of some laid-off employees. "While MasterCraft senior management will run the business, we will have separate design, sales, marketing and production teams," he says. "We plan on bringing some of the Hydra-Sports staff on board with us as we move forward, and the remainder of the positions will be filled with former MasterCraft employees from when we had the layoffs. We've rehired about half of our work force. ... I think it will be a happy story for MasterCraft employees."

This article orginally appeared in the February 2010 issue.

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