MasterCraft plans for future with Hydra-Sports

VONORE, Tenn. – From the moment the assets of Genmar Holdings LLC were put up for sale, MasterCraft had an interest in Hydra-Sports, MasterCraft President John Dorton said in an interview this morning.

“The customers have basically the same demographics,” he explained. “Hydra-Sports buyers just wake up in the morning and pick up a fishing pole instead of a wakeboard.”

That’s why Dorton, through MCBC Hydra Boats LLC, acquired Hydra-Sport for $1 million at the Genmar bankruptcy auction late last week. (For more details on the Genmar auction, click here).

Both the wakeboard and saltwater fishing markets have proven to be more stable than your average boating niche because of participants’ passion for their respective sports.

“We don’t sell to boaters so much as wakeboarders and fishermen,” Dorton stated. “Our buyers at MasterCraft consider themselves wakeboarders, not boaters. It’s the same with saltwater fisherman. Their passion for the sport is the extra glue to keep them in it in tough times.”

After economic conditions caused MasterCraft to contract, the company began looking to fill the resulting gap in production with a brand that would complement its core business. Hydra-Sports is just the right fit, giving the company the added stability it was seeking, Dorton suggested. Assuming the court hearing on the Genmar sale, which is scheduled to be held tomorrow, goes smoothly, the sale will close on Jan. 20.

The factory tooling, molds and materials will be moved to Vonore shortly afterward with a goal of beginning production with the new model year, tentatively scheduled for late spring. While Dorton said that MasterCraft intends to invite some of the key Hydra-Sports employees to relocate to Vonore, the increase in production will be filled by MasterCraft employees who were laid off due to the downturn.

Because MasterCraft was at one time a sister company of Boston Whaler, its engineering team has center console experience, particularly Scott Wood, who has spent time at Hinckley, Boston Whaler and Wellcraft.

“He gives us even more confidence we’ll be competitive in this segment,” said Dorton.

Reaching out to dealers

MasterCraft senior management spent yesterday and today talking to current Hydra-Sports dealers. Dorton said his team is anxious to get those dealers in good standing with an interest in carrying the product going forward, which is most of them, signed up for the new model year.

As the company gets cash flowing through the business, it will be able to help those dealers get caught up on warranty claims and past marketing claims, he added, asking for dealers’ patience.

“I think the most important thing [to those dealers] is that Hydra-Sports is going to be a viable brand going forward vs. possible extinction for the brand,” Dorton concluded.

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