Pro-Line and Donzi Sold - 07/01/2009

Report Highlights:
  • Pro-Line Boats Sold
  • Donzi Marine Sold
  • Pro-Line Selling Factory Direct
  • Donzi Marine to build large boats

It was announced last week that American Marine Holdings, the parent company of Donzi Marine and Pro-Line Boats, was sold to a private investor. It had been rumored for a year in industry circles that the company was looking to recapitalize. The builder is located in two locations on the west coast of Florida. Pro-Line builds center console and fishboats and Donzi builds large go-fast boats. Both segments were under pressure before the economic meltdown struck last fall. "I feel it is absolutely good news," Josh Stickles, vice president of marketing for Donzi, told Soundings Trade Only. "The commitment of the new ownership to weather the [economic] storm is encouraging."

Pro-Line 32  Donzi Angels
New 2009 32’ Pro Line express fishboat. Donzi valued this movie promotion at $20 million.

The transaction was completed June 15, though details and the identity of the private investor were not disclosed. "We've established a bit of a backlog. We've been reducing our field inventory," Stickles is reported to have said to the Hearld-Tribune. "When the market returns, customers want new boats that they can't find in the field."

The newspaper also reported that rumors have circulated that, as part of the sale, Donzi plans to eliminate most of its lines of single-engine boats, but Stickles defused that notion. "We really haven't established that yet," he said. "Larger boats, twin and triple engine boats are where the market is heading, but that is still to be determined. None of these discussions are being made lightly. There will be no immediate shift in what we're doing."

For some time, Donzi has been more focused on its larger models, customer boats and the more "up market," Stickles said.

To appeal to the high-end buyer, Donzi has increased the average size of the boat it sells from 28 feet five years ago to 38 feet in recent years. Prices range from $50,000 to more than $500,000. The boatmaker also hyper-customizes boats, whether that means a $25,000 custom paint job or an ultra-plush interior.

"Our plan here is to continue to stay true to our brand," Stickles said.

Pro-Line News

On the home page of Pro-Line boats a large headline proclaims that the company is now selling factory direct. Customers are invited to call the company to speak to its sales personnel. This would signal a departure for Pro-Line which has traditionally sold exclusively through dealers.

Same Management

Stickles said both Donzi and Pro-Line will continue to run under the same management team. In addition to Stickles, this includes general manager John E. Walker, vice president of sales Craig Barrie, CFO Howard Bleser, and vice president of credit Paul Jadgmann.

"Right now we're operating both companies the way we have been," said Stickles.

Like many other boatbuilders, American Marine Holdings has been operating at limited production to reduce inventory at the retail level. Donzi has a production staff of about 20 to 30 people in addition to the office staff. This compares to more than 200 before the downturn.

Stickles says Donzi is planning to ramp up production in the coming weeks.

Information on staffing and production levels for Pro-Line was not immediately available.

A Bit of History

Pro-Line was founded in 1968 by Dan Atwood and his father, Ray. In 1986, Atwood brought in a New York investment group headed by Lewis Ranieri, Lee Kimmell and Ken Wilson as partners. They formed American Marine Holdings in 1992.

Donzi was founded in 1964 by Don Aronow. The company went through several owners in the 30 years that followed before being purchased by AMH in 1993.

Kimmell served as CEO of AMH for nearly 15 years before stepping down in anticipation of the recent sale.