Chaparral and Robalo Boats president Jim Lane died Saturday after battling leukemia. He was 73.
Lane came on board with company founder William “Buck” Pegg in 1977 and formed Chaparral Boats.
“Jim was a great supporter of NMMA and I always enjoyed my time with him,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement. “He was on the search committee that hired me 16 and a half years ago. His passing is a significant loss. Our sympathies to his wife, Damaris, and the Chaparral family. May God bless Jim, Damaris, his family, and the entire Chaparral family.”
During a career that spanned almost four decades, Lane was respected and widely recognized as a good businessman, an insightful leader and an accomplished executive in marine industry history.
Born James Albert Lane Jr. on Sept. 23,1942, in Wauchula, Fla., he showed a knack for business at a very young age. He graduated in 1964 with a B.S.B.A. Accounting degree from the University of Florida. Lane’s father died unexpectedly while Jim was in college and he had to work three part-time jobs to complete his degree.
Recruited by numerous Fortune 500 companies, Lane took a position with the accounting firm Ernst & Ernst, where he was an account supervisor overseeing a large portfolio of international clients. In 1965 he earned CPA accreditation, and he advanced to CFO of Delta Corp. from 1969-1977.
In 1977 Lane left the financial services industry to pursue a career that mixed his passion for business with his love for boating. He formed a partnership with paddleball partner William “Buck” Pegg, whose Fort Lauderdale-based Fiberglass Fabricators boat company was on the rise.
“From day one, Lane and Pegg developed an effective partnership that maximized their unique and varied talents,” Chaparral said in a statement. “Lane’s list of accomplishments, both personal and professional, spotlight a career of achievement. An avid outdoor enthusiast, boating was both his avocation and his vocation.”
Active in a wide range of industry associations, Lane was finance chairman and also served on the board of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. He also was a founding member and served as chairman of the American Boatbuilders Association.
In a 2012 Q&A interview with Soundings Trade Only, Lane and company vice president Ann Baldree detailed how the conservatively run company took $18 million from cash reserves to support its dealer network when the Great Recession hit. It was the first time the company had opted to dip into those reserves.
“We have shareholders to think of, and we had to tell them that after 450 consecutive months of profitability we were not going to make money,” Baldree said.
“I told them we have dealers out there who need our help. We turned the boardroom into the war room,” Lane said, laughing. “We needed the right amount of assistance. It was a big commitment. And the interesting thing about the board of directors was it was never even a question. They said, ‘You guys do what you need to do to protect the business and protect the distribution channels.’ ”
Lane often spoke of how much fun the boat business was for him, but he sometimes was nostalgic for the less competitive days before the downturn because it created tension among longtime friends.
“Competition is more dynamic than it’s ever been,” Lane said in 2012. “I don’t like it nearly as well because you don’t like having to feel like you’re competing for every dealer and every deal. The business isn’t quite as fun as it was.”
“The boat business is a very concise group of people that enjoy boating,” Lane added. “A lot of boatbuilders that I’m such good friends with — we are more competitive in the marketplace than we have been in the past. When things are super-competitive, feelings get hurt.”
Lane is survived by his wife, Damaris; his son, Mark Lane, and wife Donna; daughter Beth Sessoms and husband Kelly; and five grandchildren; stepdaughter Lindsay Peacock and husband Greg; and two step-grandchildren; sister Joan Brandt and many other family members and friends.
A memorial for Lane has been planned for 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Crossroads Baptist Church in Valdosta, Ga.