2001 03 Articolo: Chris-Craft sold to UK investment firm Stellican

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CHRIS CRAFT sold to UK investment firm Stellican

Mon, 12 Mar 2001 Michael Verdon/IBINews.com

Entrepreneur Stephen Julius sets the alarm clock for this sleeping giant, aiming to repeat the success he experienced with Riva

Just two days after US-based OMC boatbuilding companies became property of Genmar Holdings, Chris-Craft was sold to Stellican, a London-based investment firm headed by entrepreneur Stephen Julius. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Chris-Craft "does not fit within our strategic plans," commented Genmar chairman Irwin Jacobs. According to a joint press release, Julius has already successfully acquired and turned around a series of companies, including another famous boat brand, the Italian made Riva. He acquired Riva from Vickers Plc, and went on to relaunch the company with new models, including a new 33ft retro runabout called the Aquariva. After returning Riva to profitability, Julius sold it in 2000 to the Ferretti Group.

"Chris-Craft is an absolutely superb and world-class brand with enormous potential," said Julius. "This could well be a $200-$300 million sales company in the making." According to the press release, it sold 1,400 boats with a net sales value of $50 million in 2000.

Stephen Heese was named as Chris-Craft president. Heese, together with Tampa-based McNeel International, is a minority investor in the company. The company said it is "reviewing which strategy will best enhance the Chris-Craft name and heritage". The release did not mention if the company would remain at its Sarasota headquarters. However, it did hint that it would be building larger boats.

"Stellican believes that while smaller boats remain important for the company," it says, "the real growth opportunity in the future lies in larger boats between 35-60ft." It said that such a move "will probably require" a larger manufacturing facility. " Julius also hinted "that he might use Chris-Craft as the first step in creating a group of high end American boat brands."

The release also says that although no decisions have been made, it is "likely, though not yet confirmed by Chris-Craft, that all unsold new boats, currently in dealer showrooms or in inventory at the company, would benefit from the Chris-Craft standard warranty terms." The company says that "demand from dealers remained strong."

Christopher Columbus Smith started building boats in 1874 and, with his brother Henry, opened the mass-production facility Smith Bros boatbuilders in 1884. Chris-Craft celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1999. Click here for the Chris-Craft website.