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New Fountain CEO named as company founder plots his future

Reggie Fountain might have resigned from Fountain Powerboats, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's out of the industry for long.

Although he has nothing set up at this time, Fountain said this morning that his phone has been ringing off the hook with possible opportunities since the news of his departure came out Friday afternoon.

"I love [the industry]. It's all I've done for 30 years," he told Soundings Trade Only. "If I do start another company, I think I have plenty of work I can do down the road."

Fountain, who last year filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and saw his company purchased by Liberty Associates, said that although he was initially happy that Liberty bought the company, there were differences of opinion.

"Sometimes when you get to know people better, things don't work out like [you] thought they would, whether you're getting married to another person or whether you're getting into business," he said. "After a while it became apparent to me that there was a very substantial difference in both philosophy and opinion as to how we should run the business."

He wouldn't give specifics, but Fountain said those differences were substantial.

"It was a difference in opinions and philosophies as to how you run the business including, but not limited to, the engineering, the manufacturing, the sales, the marketing and also the financing of the operation," he said.

John Walker, who was named president and CEO of Fountain, said it was not a shock that the company's founder resigned, although there was some surprise.

"Typically when you have somebody that owns a company for as long as Reggie has and then you have new management, there's typically differences in how things should go and we've always appreciated Reggie's position," Walker told Soundings Trade Only.

Walker is also CEO of American Marine Holdings, owner of Donzi Marine and Pro-Line, and CEO of Baja Marine. Production of Donzi and Pro-Line is being moved to Fountain's Washington, N.C. plant.

Although he expects talk in the industry about Fountain's departure, Walker is confident that the brand, along with the other three boat lines, will continue to grow.

"Unfortunate, while it is, everything doesn't come to a halt," Walker said. "People are still building boats. The entire staff at Fountain is, in fact, at work today. Everybody is continuing to do what they do. Eighty percent of the people in the company have been with the company 15 and 25 years or more. Between Donzi and Pro-Line and the excellent Fountain staff that we do have, I think our depth of knowledge is far greater than it's ever been."

About 80 people work in the North Carolina facility and Walker expects that number to grow to more than 200 in the next six months and more than 400 in the next four to five years.

"I think [Fountain's' resignation] is going to certainly cause its share of talk throughout the industry. Reggie has a very loyal group of followers, primarily in the retail end. Reggie's an icon. We wanted him to stay on and be the icon," Walker said. "Colonel Sanders is no longer alive, but Kentucky Fried Chicken is doing well. Sam Walton's no longer alive, but Wal-Mart's obviously doing well."

— Beth Rosenberg

b.rosenberg@tradeonlytoday.com

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