Brunswick to acquire Freedom Boat Club

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Brunswick Corp. said it has entered into an agreement to acquire Freedom Boat Club. Terms were not disclosed. Brunswick said the acquisition was part of its strategy “to expand its presence and scale within the emerging and fast-growing boat club segment.”

Founded in 1989, Freedom is the largest boat club operator in the United States. A Brunswick statement said that Freedom Boat Club has more than 20,000 members and a fleet of nearly 2,200 boats at approximately 170 company-owned or franchised locations in 30 U.S. states, Canada and Europe.

“As the leader in the boat club segment, Freedom offers both immediate scale and an established marketplace presence and expertise,” said David M. Foulkes, Brunswick CEO, in the statement. “FBC’s profitable and cycle-resistant business model is an excellent fit within our marine portfolio.”

Foulkes said the acquisition will also strengthen Brunswick’s “ability to benefit from the growth in the broader sharing economy and exposes a wider range of consumers” to the boating lifestyle.

Freedom Boat Club CEO John Giglio told Trade Only Today that he started talking with Brunswick officials about “possible transactions, but not a sale” between the two companies. “Since then, we’ve had a lot of open dialogue,” he said. “We started talking eight months ago about a sale. As the sharing economy grew, I really felt like I had taken the business as far as I could take it. With the changing and growing global economy, it seemed like a great fit to have a partner with such a strategic knowledge of the industry.”

“The growth of the marine industry depends on increasing the number of active boating participants and ensuring that they have a great experience on the water,” Foulkes said in the statement. “This move is a natural extension of our business. It complements our established and growing engine, parts and accessories, and boat portfolio with an emerging set of services to expand and enhance our position.”

FBC will become part of Brunswick’s Business Acceleration group, which includes Brunswick’s Boating Service Network. Brunswick has its own boat-club rental fleet called OnBoard, which it launched in 2014 by working with Suntex Marinas.

Giglio and his management team will continue to lead Freedom Boat Club. He said no decisions have been made about whether OnBoard will be integrated into Freedom Boat Club. He also said that Brunswick-owned boats and Mercury engines will be integrated into Freedom Boat Club. “We’ve got some strong partnerships that we’ve built over the years,” Giglio said. “The intent is that those are going to continue and over time will integrate with Brunswick product.”

Giglio said the company also plans to continue its expansion into Europe with Jeanneau, even though its parent, Groupe Beneteau, is a Brunswick competitor. “I know Brunswick values that relationship as well, since Jeanneau America is a big customer on the Mercury Marine side,” Giglio said. “Everyone seems to be happy right now.”

“The addition of Freedom Boat Club to our leading portfolio of marine brands will allow us to leverage resources and capabilities to create additional growth and value,” said Brenna Preisser, president of Brunswick Business Acceleration, in the statement. “Our current and prospective franchisees will be supported with a unique suite of new products and services to help them grow and provide exceptional on-water experiences for members.”

Giglio said his management team has signed an employment contract. “The intent is to keep the team intact,” he said. “We’re excited. We have a lot of tools in our shed that we didn’t have before.”

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