MIAMI BEACH — J.J. Marie, longtime president of Zodiac of North America, was toasted by friends and colleagues Thursday at the Miami International Boat Show, in anticipation of his retirement at the end of the month.
When he started with the company, Zodiac was a “little rubber boat manufacturer,” Marie told the crowd of more than 50 who gathered in Zodiac’s booth to honor him. “We’ve become an important player in the marine industry.”
Previously the largest Zodiac dealer in the world, with four locations in New England, Marie joined the Zodiac Group in 1984 as president of Zodiac Inflatable Technologies in Toronto. In 1987, he became chairman and CEO of Zodiac Hurricane Technologies in Vancouver, and in March 1990 he was named president of Zodiac of North America.
Upon his retirement, Marie will serve as chairman of the board. Howard French will be the new president and CEO, Commander (Ret.) Steve Seigel will serve as vice president and general manager of the military and professional division, and Gary Durnan will be vice president of recreational products.
Marie joked with the crowd that when he decided to retire a year ago things were different. His 401(k) has become a “101(k),” and plans to sell his home in Annapolis, Md., are temporarily on hold.
While he has mixed feelings about leaving the company during turbulent times, Marie told Soundings Trade Only he is confident Zodiac “is in a good position to deal with it.”
When asked what he will miss most, Marie said the friendships he has formed and the people, as well as the boats.
“J.J. is a very, very, very difficult act to follow,” French told the crowd. “He’s a great mentor and a great friend.”
French said he, too, is optimistic about the future of the company, citing as an example plans to introduce the first RIB cuddy model to North America next month.
“We are in difficult times,” French said. “But I think we’ve got a lot of opportunities ahead of us.”
— Beth Rosenberg