Lauderdale Marine Center has a new owner

South Florida's largest boat repair center is being sold.
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South Florida's largest boat repair center is being sold.

The Carlyle Group of Washington, D.C., a global asset manager, agreed to buy the Lauderdale Marine Center, a sprawling boatyard visible from I-95 and known for its tall arches covering long docks, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

The purchase is expected to be completed July 1. The price is estimated to be in the range of $140 million to $150 million.

The deal extends the group’s affiliation to the marine industry. In addition to Zodiac boats, Carlyle has four small marinas adjoining hotels that it bought in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

Since September 2013, Carlyle has purchased the Postcard Inn Beach Resort at Holiday Isle, La Siesta Resort, Islamorada Resort and Pelican Cove Resort & Marina to form Islamorada Hotel Co. It is investing $18 million to renovate the 151-room Postcard Inn and 54-unit La Siesta alone.

"Companies outside the marine industry are acquiring marine businesses as they become aware of them, and that's a good thing," Marine Industries Association of South Florida executive director Phil Purcell told the newspaper.

Private equity groups now own boatbuilders such as Feadship and Hatteras, and the Carlyle Group bought the Zodiac inflatable boat company nearly a decade ago, Purcell said.

The Lauderdale Marine Center stands out for its size. Co-owners Selvin Passen and Morio Mito have invested at least $65 million over nearly two decades to assemble the roughly 60 acres of facilities, starting with a 32-acre parcel they bought out of receivership in 1997.

South Florida marine industry leaders say it would be tough, if not impossible, to assemble such a large boatyard on the New River waterfront now from other properties because of the high cost of waterfront land and the difficulties associated with permitting.

Neither the buyers nor sellers would comment about the deal, although no major changes at the marine center appear likely for now.

The current owners run the marine center more like a shopping mall than a traditional repair center. They lease space to tenants who run their own businesses, rather than centralizing operations and handling repairs with their own staff.

The marine center employs about 40 people directly. Yet its roughly 50 tenants employ about 600 to 1,200 at the site, depending on the season, general manager Mark Pratt said this spring. The tenants offer such varied services as painting, woodworking and engine repair.

"It's reassuring when outside capital groups come into the marine industry," said consultant Jim Bronstien of Marine Business Advisors of North Palm Beach. "It tells us the industry is considered a good business opportunity. It's not an ego purchase."

Still, within Fort Lauderdale's marine community, plans for the marine center sale have raised concerns that new owners might seek to redevelop part of the waterfront land for condos. Concerns heightened when construction was recently stopped on upgrades to the River Bend marina part of the center.

The purchase is the third and largest marina deal announced in South Florida this month.

A South Carolina group, Atlantic Marina Holdings, bought the PGA Marina in Palm Beach Gardens for $8.45 million and plans to redevelop and expand it. And Nautical Ventures of Dania Beach is buying the Northlake marina property in North Palm Beach for about $2.5 million to develop a superstore for marine supplies there.

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