MasterCraft owner buys Hydra-Sports

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MCBC Hydra Boats, which purchased Hydra-Sports from Genmar for $1 million, is a subsidiary of the same company that owns MasterCraft Boat Co., CEO John Dorton confirmed to Soundings Trade Only.

Both brands are now owned by Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minneapolis-based investment firm.

"We started out with a real interest in Hydra-Sports from the beginning. It wasn't because it was a carve-out from the other packages. It's not the first time we've considered buying Hydra-Sports, in fact we put a bid in back when it was in the OMC bankruptcy auction as well," said Dorton, who will also serve as CEO of Hydra-Sports.

Hydra-Sports began manufacturing fiberglass fishing boats just outside of Nashville, Tenn., in 1973 and was acquired by Genmar in 2001.

"We just think it's a nice fit. It's a very high-end product," he added. "It doesn't compete with our core line of MasterCraft. We have capacity in Vonore (Tenn.) at our plant."

A court hearing is set for Wednesday to confirm the sale of all of Genmar's assets. Sales would become final Jan. 20.

Dorton said the plan is to move Hydra-Sports' tooling and molds to its plant and begin production in late spring for the 2011 model year. The company had been producing boats on a "limited basis," Dorton said.

They are in the process of talking with the brand's current "healthy, viable dealers," Dorton said. Hydra-Sports has a network of about 40 dealers.

"We're going to be very conscientious owners and work with the current Hydra-Sports dealer network and customer base to help them through any issues in the field currently and get into what hopefully will be a long-lasting relationship owning that brand for many years to come," Dorton said.

"We'll work with them to help clear up warranty issues," he added. "As you can imagine, we didn't profit any from the boats that were sold that are under the warranty population, so it will be partial participation, not full participation and we're going to try to work with dealers to help create an environment where we can use future sales to help fund some of their past receivables."

The new owners are not legally responsible for money owed to vendors, dealers or customers by the previous owners.

"We believe the vendors will have to work directly with Genmar on those claims," Dorton said. "We do intend to go back to the vendors that had been working with Hydra-Sports, set up new relationships and give them an opportunity to move forward with MasterCraft."

Dorton said they plan on bringing some of Hydra-Sports' current staff on board in the transition and the acquisition will allow the company to hire back some of its previously laid-off employees.

"While MasterCraft senior management will run the business, we will have separate design, sales, marketing and production teams," he said. "We plan on bringing some of the Hydra-Sports staff on board with us as we move forward and the remainder of the positions will be filled with former MasterCraft employees from when we had the layoffs. We've rehired about half of our work force ... I think it will be a happy story for MasterCraft employees."

- Beth Rosenberg

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