On board with Beneteau - Trade Only Today

On board with Beneteau

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An up-close look at boat construction was one of the features of the annual Rec Boat Holdings dealer meeting.

An up-close look at boat construction was one of the features of the annual Rec Boat Holdings dealer meeting.

Some dealers may have entered the Rec Boat Holdings dealer meeting in August with apprehension after the company’s sale to Groupe Beneteau, but Dave Kazmark of Patchogue Shores Marina was not one of them.

“I’m very happy with the Beneteau [acquisition],” Kazmark says. “I’m not saying Platinum Equity wasn’t stable, but they buy and sell. That’s what they do. Now we’re with a real boat company that is now the largest or second-largest boatbuilder in the world. They are debt-free, from what I understand. I think it can only be good.”

Rec Boat Holdings presented its model-year 2015 products Aug. 13-14 at the annual dealer meeting at its home base in Cadillac, Mich. Dealer networks for all four of the company’s brands — Four Winns, Glastron, Scarab and Wellcraft — converged for the two-day session.

“It is a year of change for Rec Boat Holdings,” RBC Holdings president Roch Lambert said in a statement. “We wanted our prospective dealers to see our operations, as well as confirm to our established networks that we are solidly based here in Cadillac and plan to grow our business here.”

Kazmark says much of the Beneteau and Jeanneau product on display in Cadillac was not for his market in Long Island, N.Y., but he is looking forward to the partnership.

“I think they’ll start cross-pollinating and will build more boats to our market,” Kazmark says. “Jeanneau and Beneteau are in it to stay, I think. They made a large investment. And I think they want to bring Four Winns, Glastron, Scarab and Wellcraft to Europe. It’s a synergy; they’re trying to get a larger presence in this market” while giving the other brands more exposure in Europe.”

Those who participated in the Red Boat Holdings annual dealer meeting got to tour the company's home base in Cadillac, Mich., and watch how the company builds the models of its four brands - Wellcraft, Scarabm Four Winns and Glastron.

Those who participated in the Red Boat Holdings annual dealer meeting got to tour the company's home base in Cadillac, Mich., and watch how the company builds the models of its four brands - Wellcraft, Scarabm Four Winns and Glastron.

Some dealers came to the meeting a bit nervous about the sale to Beneteau, but Lambert says those lingering fears have been put to rest. Now the companies are looking to leverage cross-pollination between Rec Boat Holdings and Beneteau Group dealers.

“We have a long list of leads. We’re currently working on more than 100-something leads between our two networks,” Lambert told Soundings Trade Only. “And we have additional dealers that want to come on board because of what’s happening, both here and abroad. So this has been a very good couple of months, as far as the future of the business.”

Some Rec Boat Holdings dealers were looking to take on the Beneteau and Jeanneau outboard brands, and some Beneteau dealers want to explore the Four Winns, Glastron, Scarab and Wellcraft lines.

“We’re extremely busy at it already. Everybody is really scrambling to chase opportunities,” Lambert says. “We had identified a list of synergies, and so far it’s looking really good for all that we expected to happen as a result of this transaction. The chemistry is good between the two teams, and it’s a fun product. So far, the honeymoon is going well.”

Beneteau, Jeanneau and Rec Boat Holdings leaders explained to dealers that Beneteau bought the company to penetrate the North American market in outboard segments. The company communicated its plan to continue to invest in new-product development and provide dealerhad s with a larger, stable foundation under the new ownership.

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“Across the board, everybody feels a lot more comfortable with what’s going on. It’s an interesting portfolio of products. We now cover most of the segments out there, and I think everybody is reassured that we’re going down a solid path,” Lambert says. “It’s reassuring for the dealers to see we’re no longer under private equity [because] we were for sale for four years. Of course, our competition used that against us. These people have been building boats for 130 years. They didn’t buy that company to buy and sell. This is for them to penetrate the North American market in a bigger way.”

Beneteau said June 24 that it had acquired Rec Boat Holdings from private equity group Platinum Holdings, which had bought the company out of the Genmar bankruptcy. Beneteau did not say how much it spent on the acquisition, but chief financial officer Patrick Guilloux offered an indication of the overall investment.

“If you consider the cost of acquisition and if you consider the investment to bring new products into the factory in Michigan and the tooling and molds that make the Beneteau and Jeanneau boats, all in the next four or five years, the total cost of investments should be less than $100 million,” Guilloux said at the time of the sale. “We’re talking about the complete project’s medium term, not only the acquisition costs.”

Beneteau says the acquisition is in line with the group’s development strategy for the North American market. Platinum Holdings retains ownership of Flippin, Ark.-based Fishing Boat Holdings, maker of the Ranger, Triton and Stratos boat brands that the private equity firm also acquired.

Rec Boat Holdings has revenue of about $150 million and employs 475 people. It has a network of more than 200 dealers across North America and its entry into the Beneteau Group will “enable it to expand its access to the European and global markets,” the company says.

“After launching sales of motorboats over 12 meters in 2010, the group is embarking on the second phase of its project, with motorboats under 12 meters, which requires an industrial investment in America,” Beneteau says. “On its own, this segment accounts for nearly 40 percent of the overall motorboat market in the United States.”

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.

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Analysts estimate that Beneteau’s powerboat revenue will jump from about $400 million to more than $550 million.

Although some dealers still had some trepidation about the transaction, the dealer meeting largely put those to rest, Lambert says. And Kazmark says dealers who were still nervous were the exception; largely he heard positive feedback from dealers who came in droves to hear more about the new owners.

Although some models that were tested at the meeting had already been unveiled —such as the 165 Scarab, the 215 Scarab and the Glastron GT207 — it was the first time some dealers saw and tested some of the 28 boats on the water. The company displayed new 2015 boats in the water and on land so dealers could water-test and explore new models and the changes to existing models from each brand.

The 28 included seven or eight Beneteau outboard models and seven Jeanneau outboard models, Lambert says. “Our focus has now shifted to our Wellcraft brand, with plans to expand and update the line in 2015.”

“So people were able to try some products as much as the rain allowed,” Lambert says. “It poured on Tuesday, the day slated for boat tests, but actually it’s not bad weather for the types of boats they are.”

What Beneteau actually bought in the deal, Guilloux said, was the manufacturing capabilities of the Michigan plant, four recognized brands, an advanced dealer network and an excellent senior management team led by Lambert. Jeanneau and Beneteau had four North American dealers at the time of the transaction, but that number has already grown.

“More than 200 dealers joined that group overnight,” he says. “That’s going to be a great help to develop the Beneteau and Jeanneau brands in America.”

Kazmark says he is happy with the company’s new-model releases and is especially looking forward to the revamping of some dated Wellcraft product.

“I couldn’t feel better. It’s a win-win for me,” he says. “I’ve been with Glastron for 15 years. I went through the Genmar days, which at the end turned out to be a nightmare for me. I see this as nothing but positive. Now there will be some cash infusion to revamp some of the older Wellcraft models, so I think it’s win-win all around.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue.

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