Crownline to restart production soon

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The new owners of Crownline Boats say they expect to restart production in six to eight weeks, with plans to have models in time for the upcoming winter boat show season.

"We plan on going to the boat shows this winter with a powerful company and a good direction," Nathan Heisner, inside sales manager for Crownline, told Soundings Trade Only.

"The main direction we would want to use is 'back to the basics.' We're going to get back to the basics of boatbuilding and taking care of our dealers, taking care of our consumers and taking care of our employees," he added.

The company announced last Friday it had been jointly purchased by Tony Zielinski, owner of Leisure Properties, and Dave Wilson, owner of Misty Harbor and Ultracraft.

Details of the deal were not released.

Zielinski has extensive experience working for Ford Motor Company within their dealer development department and also owns a marine retail establishment in Wisconsin. Wilson started Misty Harbor in 1990 and has managed and grown the business to be a leading pontoon manufacturer.

Neither Zielinski or Wilson could be reached for comment.

"[Zielinski and Wilson are] two very powerful entities because they understand retail, wholesale, production and manufacturing and it's not just that they understand it as a whole, they understand manufacturing boats," Heisner said.  "It's just a powerful situation for us to be in."

The company also announced the original leadership team will be rejoining the company. Kevin Riem will be vice president and general manager, Guy Coons will be CFO, Tami Murphy will be director of manufacturing operations and Heisner will manage inside sales.

Nautic Global Group, the manufacturer of Rinker Boats and Godfrey Marine brands, announced in June it had entered into a non-binding letter of intent to acquire the assets of Crownline Boats.

However, that agreement expired, meaning other interested parties could look at the company. The sale became final Aug. 20

Nautic Global Group did not immediately return a request for comment.

Heisner said that despite the prolonged downturn in the boating industry, he's confident Crownline will come back strong. The company shut down production late last year at its West Frankfort, Ill., facility.

Riem said sales meetings are planned for later this week and he anticipates staff will start calling on dealers next week.

"I think the first thing for Crownline to do is take a step back and thank all of our dealers and suppliers for standing behind us," he said. "There were opportunities for all these folks to take on other boat lines or go on to other things and they decided to stand by us through this process."

Riem said the company is putting together processes to honor all warranties and "make the dealers whole."

The company has more than 120 North American dealers, and sells internationally through distributors.

Crownline plans to build a mix of all of its boats, ranging from 18 to 34 feet. Quantities of each will depend on what the dealers need and what they have in stock, Heisner said. When production resumes, the company will have more than 100 employees at its Illinois facility.

As for vendors owed money, Riem said, "Some of those outstanding balances are previous to us taking over and so some of those things will have to be worked out."

Most of the company's previous vendors, he noted, are interested in once again doing business with Crownline.

"It's something that we've waited for, for nearly eight months," Heisner said. "We've been through a long road of eight months answering questions and we're very happy with the owners that have acquired this company - very, very happy. Extremely excited and the direction they're going to take the company is 100 percent positive."

- Beth Rosenberg


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