Forest City, Iowa-based camper trailer and motorhome manufacturer Winnebago Industries Inc has acquired iconic fibreglass boat brand Chris-Craft from former owners Stellican Ltd.
“Chris-Craft is an iconic, premium brand that shares many similarities with our own heritage Winnebago brand, including a commitment to providing customers with the highest quality products and services,” says Winnebago Industries president and CEO, Michael Happe. “The company’s strong brand, high-quality product line and premium position in the marine market make Chris-Craft an attractive addition to our portfolio.”
Changes to Chris-Craft’s operations are expected to be minimal. Current Chris-Craft president Stephen Heese will continue to lead the business in the same role, and the company is expected to remain in its existing 170,000sq ft production facility in Sarasota, Florida.
In a presentation to investors, Winnebago identified several opportunities to accelerate Chris-Craft’s growth strategy, including adding production capacity, adding new models to its existing lines, expansion of the global dealer network and extending the brand into new boat categories. Further brand extensions through licensing agreements are also being considered.
“We look forward to further developing our storied brand while leveraging Winnebago’s capital and resources to accelerate our growth, and continue delivering an exceptional product experience for our dealers and customers,” says Heese.
Moving forward, Chris-Craft will operate as a distinct business unit within Winnebago, and is expected to be immediately accretive to Winnebago’s fiscal 2019 EPS.
With a brand heritage that dates to 1874, Chris-Craft manufactures a distinctive range of luxury-premium fibreglass runabouts in both bowrider and closed-deck designs, along with a growing line of outboard-powered centre console and dual console models from 21ft-38ft. About 75% of the brand’s business is represented by domestic sales within the US, but it has a growing international dealership base of more than 90 dealers and 123 global sales locations in more than 50 countries.
Chris Craft has had numerous owners since it was sold by the Chris Craft Industries media corporation in 1981, including Dale Murray, Ghaith Pharaon, OMC and eventually Genmar. It was finally acquired and placed on a much stronger footing by Stellican in 2001 under the direction of its turnaround specialist chairman Stephen Julius.
The acquisition of Sarasota, Florida-based Chris-Craft marks Winnebago’s first entry into the marine market, with the company hinting that additional future acquisitions are possible as the company seeks to diversify its portfolio and add new growth platforms within the outdoor lifestyle market.
“We believe there will be synergies realized across our value chain and that the Chris-Craft business has material expansion opportunities available,” said CEO Michael Happe. “Additionally, we see significant intersection between the RV and marine lifestyles and view marine as a natural adjacency to our existing outdoor lifestyle portfolio, with similar customer demographics and significant ownership crossover.”
“I am delighted that Chris-Craft has found an ideal partner in Winnebago Industries,” says Chris-Craft chairman and Stellican Ltd founding partner, Stephen Julius. “Winnebago is a natural fit for Chris-Craft’s premium brand, with a similarly iconic brand, complementary cultures, and a shared dedication to design, craftsmanship, quality, and customer service.”