Pearson far from retired

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Kaye Pearson may tell you that the sale of Yachting Promotions Inc. (see today’s news story, Yachting Promotions acquired by media firm, for more details) will give him more time with family and out on the water. But don’t misunderstand.

This 65-year-old boat show executive, one of the most public figures in Florida’s marine industry and beyond, is not leaving the industry – far from it.

First of all, he has a two-year contract as a “consultant” for the new owner, California-based Active Interest Media. Unlike some such positions created after an acquisition to comfort clients, Pearson actually has some specific goals to accomplish. In particular, he’ll focus on the redevelopment of the Bahia Mar site and the management of the Fort Lauderdale show.

“The docks [at Bahia Mar] were completely redone a couple of years ago, but it left this huge land mass that was crying for redevelopment and has been for several years,” Pearson explained. “This group now coming into redevelop the property will be very significant in terms of providing an expanded and different kind of home for the Fort Lauderdale show, and it’s certainly one that’s going to give the consumer a great opportunity – and one I plan to play an integral part in helping to shape – an opportunity for the show to be held at a major resort facility and not simply an open asphalt parking lot.”

He will not be involved in show operations. In recent years, most of that work has been managed by his staff anyway – headed up by Andrew Doole and Dane Graziano.

“Some of my guys would tell you [my role has become] I show up on the day the show opens and walk around and find things that are wrong, which really is one of the issues. I’ve always paid attention to the details,” he commented. Recently, Pearson’s role has been more of “an overview of the entire operation and making suggestions in some areas where I thought we might improve the shows.”

In fact, today, the opening day of the Palm Beach Boat Show, one of the five shows YPI produces, Pearson said he hadn’t made it up to the show yet.

“I don’t hear anybody asking,’Where is Kaye?’” he commented. “It’s a pretty seamless transition at this point.”

Secondly, there is his interest in International Marinas and International Marinas Chub, in which he is an investor. Pearson said he’ll be involved in the design and management of marinas in the U.S, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Finally, Pearson owns some fishing tournaments, including the Mercury Hatteras Shootout, which he’ll continue to be involved in.

Protecting his people
There have been inquiries into the sale of Yachting Promotions for the last three or four years, according to Pearson. It’s only recently, however, that he decided it was time to pursue an exit strategy.

In looking for a buyer for the company he has built over the past thirty years, Pearson was looking for someone with whom he could communicate and whose commitment to the company – and its employees – was clear.

“Most important, there was an absolute commitment from the beginning that it would not be something where he or his group would want to come in on a hands on basis and try and run the shows. It’s a great operation. It works. It’s not broken. It doesn’t need to be fixed.

“It was important for me that these people who dedicated a lot of time and effort to building the company along side me would continue to operate on the same basis they have over the last several years. And frankly they’re the ones that have been on the front line for the last few years while I played a little bit of a different role.”

Leaving a legacy
While Pearson isn’t leaving the industry, he is leaving an office – and a position – he has held for almost half his life – something than isn’t easy.

“My car will only go to one address,” he joked.

While he has plenty of future opportunities to make his mark on the boating industry, there is no doubt he has made a lasting impression through his role at YPI.

“Most importantly, these shows [owned by YPI] have been selling events. The exhibitors have sold product and made money, and therefore whether they liked me or liked the company, they liked the success opportunity. That’s what has kept them involved and made the shows grow over the years. If anything, I think my legacy is that I’ve contributed an opportunity for the entire industry to come together and sell their product and be successful. Certainly, we shared in that success along with them.”

For more coverage of the sale – and YPI’s new owner – see future editions of Boating Industry’s e-News.

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