Robert T. Healey Sr., who co-founded Viking Yacht Co. 57 years ago with his brother Bill and helped mold the New Jersey-based company into one of the world’s largest builders of sportfishing yachts, died Dec. 9. He was 92.
“My father was a true leader, and his vision will always guide us,” Robert Healey Jr. said in a statement. “He believed that the people around him — his family, friends and employees — lifted him to success, and it was his obligation to leave the world a better place.”
Before he made his mark as a boatbuilder, Healey was an attorney who practiced law for 25 years. The brothers bought a small builder of wooden boats in 1964 and before long were devoting their full focus to the business.
Healey was Viking’s board chairman for 57 years and served as the company’s lawyer, chief executive and “money man.” He also is remembered for his ceaseless fight against the federal luxury tax, which decimated the marine industry in the early 1990s.
“My uncle’s efforts to repeal the federal luxury tax on yachts will never be forgotten,” said Viking president and CEO Pat Healey. “He saved not only Viking but the entire marine industry. He was the catalyst and leader, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was a brilliant lawyer and savvy businessman who was able to convince the politicians in Washington that this was very much a jobs issue. It was about good, hard-working people losing their ability to provide for their families.”
Viking was forced to close its Florida facility and reduced its workforce from 1,500 to 65 employees.
In 2003, Robert and Bill Healey were inducted into the National Marine Manufacturers Association Hall of Fame for their contributions to the industry. In 2019, they were awarded the IBI-Metstrade Boat Builder Lifetime Achievement Award.
Click here for Healey’s obituary.
“My father always said, ‘We’ve worked hard to get to the top of the mountain. We’re enjoying the view, and we’re not going to give it up,’ ” said Robert Healey Jr., co-chairman of the Viking Group.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to charities supported by The Robert T. Healey Sr. Charitable Trust, which include the Healey International Relief Foundation, the Healey Education Foundation and the Gleneayre Equestrian Program.