Bass Pro Group eyes early 2015 to close acquisition

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A deal for the Bass Pro Group to buy Fishing Holdings LLC, which builds Ranger Boats and the Stratos and Triton brands, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015.

That’s according to Bass Pro Shops communications director Tammy Sapp, who told Trade Only Today that there are no plans yet for how to market and sell the brands.

“The transaction is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2015,” Sapp told Trade Only. “It will not be until early next year, so at this time there are just no plans in place.”

The transaction still has to go through closing conditions and standard regulatory approvals, Sapp said. “At this time, it’s really too early [to comment].”

Bass Pro Group announced an agreement Thursday afternoon to buy Fishing Holdings LLC from the Platinum Equity Group.

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris founded the Tracker Marine Group, which includes the aluminum fishing boat brand Tracker, the performance fishing boat brand Nitro, the offshore saltwater sport and inshore fishing boat brand Mako, the family runabout and deckboat brand Tahoe and the pontoon brand Regency, as well as kayaks.

After the deal closes, Fishing Holdings will continue to operate independently under its existing management at its headquarters in Flippin, Ark., which is a two-hour drive from Bass Pro Shops’ headquarters in Springfield, Mo.

“We are fortunate to partner with Bass Pro Group, which understands the industry and our brands,” Fishing Holdings president Randy Hopper said in a statement. “This new alliance will provide synergies that will strengthen our independent dealer base and ensure our continued focus on fishing.”

The agreement combines two internationally recognized fishing boat brands. It also creates another connection between Morris and Ranger Boats founder Forrest Wood. Both are fishermen, conservationists and entrepreneurs.

Years ago, the outdoorsmen began fishing on the White River and White River Chain of Lakes in the Ozarks and they even fished together in the first National BASS Tournaments.

“It is exciting,” Sapp said. “It’s a new partnership and it’s bringing together popular fishing boat brands. There is definitely a neat story to tell because you have two industry leaders, both are big-time, dedicated fishermen, and both are well-respected conservationists, so the whole iconic outdoorsmen coming together like that, there’s an upside for everybody.”

“This partnership brings added long-term stability for both companies and for the dealer networks that provide customers with quality boats at exceptional values,” Morris said in a statement. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Forrest Wood many years, and I deeply respect him and his family that founded and built a solid-performing business with excellent products.”

“It’s also important that our companies share comparable cultures and values and are dedicated to manufacturing quality products in the USA,” Morris added.

“Nearly five years ago we pledged to provide the resources and support necessary to help the company grow and evolve while respecting the heritage and deep roots in fishing that make it so special,” Platinum Equity partner Louis Samson, who led the acquisitions in 2010, said in a separate statement. “We achieved our goals and I am very proud of all that has been accomplished during our stewardship.”

California-based Platinum Equity Group’s PBH Marine Group announced that it had bought the brands out of bankruptcy in 2010, purchasing essentially all of the assets of Genmar Holdings for $70 million.

PBH purchased 11 brands, including Ranger, Stratos, Champion, Wellcraft, Four Winns, Larson and Glastron, Soundings Trade Only reported at the time.

Carver and Marquis were purchased for $6.05 million by J&D Acquisitions LLC, a company created by former Genmar owner Irwin Jacobs, along with John Paul DeJoria. Some additional brands were subsequently resold, including the Larson brand, which Jacobs also purchased.

The Ranger and Stratos brands were folded into Fishing Holdings, and Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft (and the revived brand Scarab) were rolled into Rec Boat Holdings. PBH also acquired Triton from Brunswick Corp. to add to the Fishing Holdings portfolio.

Rec Boat Holdings was sold to the Beneteau Group this summer and has effectively completed its stint in the marine industry with the sale of Fishing Holdings.

“We are impressed with [Fishing Holdings’] leadership team and performance and look forward to welcoming them to the Bass Pro Shops family,” Morris said.

“I’m excited for Ranger and the team at Fishing Holdings,” Wood said. “Johnny’s organization is deeply rooted in fishing and dedicated to conservation. He’s made a huge contribution to our sport, and I believe this is a real opportunity to better serve so many dealers and loyal customers around the country.”

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