Brunswick acquires aluminum-boat builder

Brunswick Corp. acquired Thunder Jet, a builder of heavy-gauge aluminum boat models in three series that include outboard, offshore and jet.
This V-186 Eco is one of Thunder Cat’s 19 heavy-gauge aluminum models.

This V-186 Eco is one of Thunder Jet’s 19 heavy-gauge aluminum models.

Brunswick Corp. acquired Thunder Jet, a builder of heavy-gauge aluminum boat models in three series that include outboard, offshore and jet.

Thunder Jet’s more rapid replacement rate, higher price points, and higher margins than typical of aluminum boats made the company an attractive acquisition despite Brunswick’s primary focus on parts and accessories acquisitions, Brunswick chairman and CEO Mark Schwabero said.

The jet line does use jet propulsion, Brunswick spokesman Daniel Kubera confirmed to Trade Only Today, but did not immediately identify the provider.

Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed, but Thunder Jet’s 2015 revenues were around $20 million. The company, which has 19 models ranging from 18 to 26 feet in its portfolio, will remain based in Clarkston, Wash., and will operate as “a key part” of the freshwater boat division, Brunswick said.

“A premium brand and a leader in its segment, Thunder Jet provides Brunswick with a presence in an attractive niche market where both our boat and marine engine brands are currently under-represented,” Schwabero said in a statement. “Through this transaction, we now are well positioned within the growing heavy-gauge aluminum market, which is strong in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.”

“We see opportunities from this acquisition to grow revenues in our boat and marine engine segments, including our parts and accessories businesses in this expanding market segment, to which many boaters are so devoted,” Schwabero said. “Further, we are attracted to the HGA segment’s more rapid rate of replacement, higher price points and margins above those of typical aluminum fish boats.”

The freshwater group is excited to collaborate with Thunder Jet and its dealer network, and believes Brunswick could add further value to the Washington-based boat maker’s portfolio in terms of enhancing design, fishing features and overall performance, Schwabero said.

“Together, we will advance Thunder Jet’s product features and market share by leveraging our combined operations and product development expertise, along with supporting our industry-leading distribution networks,” Schwabero said. “Beyond product improvement opportunities, we believe this transaction also offers natural synergies for savings and efficiencies through leveraging the boat group’s supply base and process improvement expertise.”

The Brunswick group used “a focused and structured approach” in evaluating acquisition opportunities using several criteria, Schwabero said.

“There needs to be a strong fit with our strategy; the particular business needs to be in a market that we believe has healthy fundamentals; and we need to have the organizational capacity to integrate and effectively manage the business,” Schwabero said. “The acquisition also needs to meet some important internal financial benchmarks. We believe Thunder Jet satisfies these criteria.”

Brunswick had not been focused on boat acquisitions, but believes those criteria make the company a good addition, Schwabero said.

“Though our priority for acquisitions remains primarily on marine parts and accessories and fitness, we also keep an eye out for exceptional prospects that will strengthen our company and serve our shareholders,” Schwabero said.

The Thunder Jet acquisition is expected to have minimal impact upon Brunswick’s 2016 earnings.

Established in 1981, Thunder Jet began with founder Darrell Mills heading up sales, his wife Liana doing the books, and employing one welder, rig tech and painter.

In their first year they produced five boats — 30 years and 6,000 boats later, the builder has a strong following in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.


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