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Repo business turns to brokerage sales

Seeing the boat repossession market sag, a Michigan marine company is boosting its used-boat brokerage business.

Jeff Henderson, president of Harrison Marine Services in Harrison Township, started his business 25 years ago to provide repossession, the liquidation and storage of recovered boats, consulting and investigative work. Business grew every year until about 2010, when boat pickup and recovery tied to defaulted loans dropped off, Henderson told Crain’s Detroit Business.

"In my world, that was the end of the recession," he said.

Henderson said he sold all 6,000 boats he recovered during the last two decades. They ranged from small boats to 70- to 80-foot yachts.

For a time, Henderson did recoveries not only in Michigan, but also in Florida, along the Eastern Seaboard, down to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri and over to the West Coast. But as the recession took hold, others got into the game. Banks opted to move their business to more local players to minimize their losses, Henderson said.

Today, Henderson said, Harrison Marine Services has returned to being primarily a regional recovery service and broker. During the last year he has become a private broker for used-boat owners, working from word-of-mouth referrals.

"I'm just starting to get some product on the lot ... it's still in a growing stage ... [but] I've seen strong sales of those used boats," he said.

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